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“Dolby’s Top 250 Tracks of the 2010’s (250-126)”

250 The Black Keys – “Gold on the Ceiling”

The Black Keys make me feel old. First there was the relentless spunk of Rubber Factory (and don’t get me started on an album called Thickfreakness) and now this basically CPR album for mainstream rock, El Camino, an LP with a dangerous Midwestern blues-rock grit but that can miraculously somehow play in Hooters and not stand out like a sore thumb. “Gold on the Ceiling” is possibly the catchiest constituent of them all, with a pointedly infectious, syncopated chorus.

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249 R.E.M. – “Walk it back”

As it happens, obviously, I’m writing this list in fall, so I can’t help but think of the contemplative love affairs I’ve had with the dark, spooky and vaguely autumnal New Adventures in Hi-Fi this time of year. “Walk it back,” though, sort of the last stalwart anthem on the solid Collapse into Now, along with its simple and beautiful chorus sort of like “Talk about the Passion,” has more of an immediate pop completeness, drawing from the resigned, melancholy pop of Up like “Sad Professor” but whittling it down into something more conclusive, and in that way, mature, too.

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248 Liars – “Vox Tuned D.E.D.”

You have to expect the unexpected with any new Liars album and 2014’s Mess certainly didn’t disappoint in regards to this dictum, taking the sparse electronic aspects of WIXIW and plastering them up into something big, grand and affirming. Angus Andrew just didn’t have any rock riffs in him, I guess — he’d been listening to more Hot Chip than Rage against the Machine and truth be told, “Vox Tuned D.E.D.” doesn’t really NEED a riff. It finds a way to powerful and memorable over programmed drums, just with assertive vocal and velvety strings.

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247 The Entrance Band – “The Crave”

The Entrance Band’s daunting and gorgeous 2013 album Face the Sun tended to usually be like a dream to me, sort of like Lower Dens’ inimitably autumnal Nootropics, to where each track would bleed into the others and I’d have a hard time differentiating between them. Well recording a version sung entirely in French is one way to distinguish one of your choice cuts, which LA-via-Baltimore’s Guy Blakeslee pulled off for this brooding, sadistic dirge which takes the dejected power of the preceding “Spider” to uncomfortable and exciting new depths.

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246 Green Day – “The Forgotten”

The formula isn’t a WHOLE lot different here from what it was on “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” which came 15 years earlier, save for the arpeggio-happy acoustic guitar scidaddling in favor of stately piano. Now, for some people, this is a drawback of Green Day — they never change! For me, it’s just that they don’t have the need to be something they’re not, and/or there’s enough of a wealth of inspiration within their established playbook of pop songwriting that they can strut around in there and continue to explore and grow, becoming more and more human all the while, which “The Forgotten” will surely corroborate.

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245 White Rabbits – “Back for More”

Brooklyn’s White Rabbits, when they were around about the turn of last decade, were about some of the most ironic self-defeaters you could ever reckon. I mean, calling yourself the White Rabbits and titling your first album “It’s Frightening” is hardly a sure-fire plan for taking over the world. Then there’s the homoerotic stopper on Milk Famous of “Danny Come inside.” Well, there’s plenty of busy, rhythmic indie rock buried under all the surface concessions for anyone punctilious enough to look, this mid-album cut showing their ability to take the tempo down and mourn with some disciplined stylistic sparseness, like a Radiohead that’s just too good at dancing.

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244 Grizzly Bear – “Sun in Your Eyes”

In possibly the last instance of me gloating about Coke Machine Glow dissing Shields and then completely biting the dust as a publication a mere three years later (and probably the last said instance of the decade, at least), I’d just like to reinstate my awe of Grizzly Bear’s album from 2012, front to back including this exhaustive and psychedelic closeur. Again, this is autumnal, organic music that’s as well produced, in both extremes of the mix, as it is inspired and original.

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243 The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”

In a mode of rock songwriting that’s almost like grotesquely “hip” and “stylish,” true to El Camino form, Dan Auerbach and company chime in here with at least a little more transparency, in all their catchy glory — ceding victory to the venerable female powers in their life, which of course itself is also a time-honored tradition of Delta Blues.

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242 Band of Skulls – “Sweet Sour”

It seems clear now that in composing the initial part of this list I’m being thrown back to 2012 and my formative musical experiences of that year — it’s the year Dolby Disaster started and I can point in particular to this stirring, erratic but cathartic title track as an example of music I thought deserved to be touted, but for which I wasn’t hearing praise from any other journals or mags. It took me to my own world which I then tried to make everybody’s world, as a natural recourse, Russell Marsden’s almost animalistic guitar riff all the while spellbinding and quintessentially wolverine and unknowable.

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241 Billie Eilish – “bad guy”

I have to admit, there was so much buzz surrounding Billie Eilish when she first came out that I just FIGURED she was a big hoax. Vastly underestimated on my part, then, was just how damaged and sick of everything she’d sound on prodding stompers like “bad guy,” like everything Lana Del Rey is billed as being, just actually manifest. “bad guy” gets things going in fashion on Eilish’s astonishing debut of this year, When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

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240 Green Day – “Rusty James”

This trio of Uno/Dos/Tre albums from 2012 from Green Day has certainly quite got thrown under the bus (well there is a song called “Fu** Time” on one of them, so you can sort of see). Upon a certain amount of sifting, though, it’s not entirely impossible to find some catchy and gripping material — this one chugs along like frat boy Green Day fare of yore we know and love, with Billie Joe’s inimitable rasp helming the ship in sardonic style

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239 The Walkmen – “Victory”

In many ways the centerpiece of Lisbon and arguably even this band’s whole career, “Victory” saunters along in deliberate 3/4 time, bleeding out a gentle, unremarkable chorus before conjealing into a barking, soaring climax of “Victory / Right beside me / Victory / Should be mine”. And in general, Hamilton Leithauser and company have a commendable way of, short of crafting “concept albums,” coming up with a concept “mood” for an album, which, somewhat gratifyingly, in this case, is just plain ol’ unadulterated frustration.

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238 Deerhunter – “Sailing”

I still remember when Halcyon Digest came out — I was really sluggish in getting around to listening to it and just sort of thought there’s no WAY Bradford Cox had another great album of material in him, after the formidable beasts that were Cryptograms and Microcastle. To this day, as it were, I’m still wrapping my head around the cosmologically elevated territory to which the band traversed on this LP, where they can graft down a song as sparse, like a singer/songwriter within a band, as “Sailing,” and still have it make such an impression, even if it is the irony of sympathy garnering on the part of a successful frontman (“You can’t take too long / Makin’ up songs”).

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237 The New Pornographers – “Another Drug Deal of the Heart”

I used to love this band. To wit: it’s been sad seeing Dan Bejar exit and seeing them devolve into a pedestrian indie also-ran, to wallow alongside The Sea and Cake and Minus the Bear. But I remember when this band had daring, when this band had balls, and naturally, it was in matters of the “heart” where they excelled, as on this sort of co-centerpiece on Brill Bruisers, Bejar’s last album with the band: (“Let’s treat it like being sworn in / And not like another drug deal of the heart / It’s a drug deal of the heart”). This, without question, was back when they tried.

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236 Band of Skulls – “The Devil Takes Care of His Own”

Southampton’s Band of Skulls burst onto the scene in ’09 with Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, a blues-rock album belted out in the spirit of The White Stripes but without some of the theatrical derring-do we find with Jack White. Sweet Sour, proviso of this tune and other proud rockers, continues in roughly the same style but where I think the critics failed, along with that stupefyingly uncomfortable guitar riff which leads things off in the opening title track, is in pointing out the increased intensity, volume and production grit the band shows off on ’12’s battle cry. “The Devil Takes Care of His Own” is the undeniable emotional zenith of said LP, complete with a blistering, breakneck grunge breakdown at the end sure to leave your head spinning.

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235 R.E.M. – “Uberlin”

As I mention earlier, I got considerable enjoyment out of the band’s 2011 effort Collapse into Now, which opens with two pretty energetic rock tunes similar to Accelerate’s general playbook. “Uberlin” is track three on Collapse into Now where the band take the tempo down just a notch, to showcase the increased poignancy of the songwriting that’s taking place, offering too the anthemic chorus about “riding on a star” and then culminating with “I will make it through the night”.

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234 Tyga – “Bit**es N Marijuana” feat. Chris Brown, Schoolboy Q

I was just looking through Tyga’s catalogue and Jesus, this is one prolific dude. Anyway, this was a song I always enjoyed and remembered, possibly in my opinion the best thing both Chris Brown and Schoolboy Q have ever worked on, and interestingly a boom-bap throwback that holds true to the “trap” ethos of saying fu** everything and find somebody to fu**.

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233 The New Pornographers – “Brill Bruisers”

In stark contrast to the grandiosely disappointing Whiteout Conditions, Brill Bruisers offered us a lead single and title track, back in my day of listening to singles before the album came out, that spawned a sweet relief in me that one of my favorite bands still hadn’t lost it — he** it even had a “bruising” sort of directness, the remnants of the simple chord progression seeming to fall away from that pounding, vehement one-beat.

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232 Blur – “Ice Cream Man”

Blur only put out one album this decade and I’ve chosen three songs of it to feature on this list. I am a Blur fan. Now, take this with a grain of salt, because The Magic Whip, their one album, is a more a “this decade” product than a “Blur” product. That is to say, I am in no way a Blur “devotee,” or such of any band, to where I’d indiscriminately praise their album ignoring pertinence and vitality. All this and I don’t even know what to SAY about the crazy sounds I’m hearing on this song, a song which simultaneously firms up around a poppy structure with some refreshingly grainy acoustic rhythm guitar, just to assure you they haven’t forgot where they came from, temporally speaking, of course.

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231 Liars – “Too Much, Too Much”

Following this epic, dramatic closeur on Liars’ cold slab of brains that was Sisterworld, you certainly expected something big to happen in the band’s personal life — like a death, or a band breakup, or a retreat where they tar and feather each other in Yosemite. Instead, of course, we got WIXIW. Still, getting stoned and listening to this album early in this decade was like a hilariously poignant experience, way more meaningful than it had any right being, with this closing number sort of turning the pointing finger back in on the pointer with the simple final statement of “I am dead”.

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230 The Gaslight Anthem – “Stay Lucky”

You have to admit, nobody hauls off and cranks out a rock album like The Gaslight Anthem, at least around the turn of last decade. But while the knock on them is that they’re pretty much always doing the same thing — trio garage power-pop — “Stay Lucky” is a good instance of how their album sequencing does embody a certain variety, being a brisk galloper wedged as it is between two more down, reflective numbers, which would of course presage the complete leap into the gentle ethereal of “We Did it When We Were Young,” coming last on this album.

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229 Green Day – “Say Goodbye”

Anybody who heard Revolution Radio should certainly agree to its astounding listenability and pop fertility, this track four probably being the centerpiece with the somber message “Say goodbye to the ones that you love”. Best of all, it’s a stomper in six-eight time signature, like “Longview”; “Hitchin’ a Ride” and “Holiday” were before it.

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228 Iceage – “Burning Hand”

I choose “Burning Hand” from this hardcore masterpiece by Denmark’s Iceage because it gives you the fullest sense of this band’s endless repertoire for echoing your frustrations with the world and with music in general — I mean those guitar tones are so crystalline and pure to begin the track that they could have made it an instrumental, but instead they fire ahead with three-plus minutes of uncompromising no-way, Elias Bender Ronnenfelt not so much singing as barking like a post-apocalyptic sergeant with nothing but a mean disposition.

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227 Billie Eilish – “you should see me in a crown”

I think this cut more than any other on When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? gave me a strong Radiohead vibe, the music cozying up to that dark greyish, subtle vibe, but then Eilish’s lyrical disposition taking on a sassier tone, baiting her enemies with what’s already her self-fulfilling prophecy of acting haughty. You’re so immersed in her musical world by this point that you don’t think anything of it, really.

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226 Ellie Goulding – “Lights”

The British Ellie Goulding pipes in here on her most famous tune like a diva who’s vulnerable and human as she is iconic and confident, voice fragile and undulating like one of Bjork’s more melodically exact expeditions. Then the song comes together around a very catchy chorus of the “Lights” that are “calling calling calling me”, cementing it as a memorable listen and somewhat justifying that absurdly played-out quarter-note kick drum gimmick.

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225 Deerhunter – “Coronado”

Halcyon Digest, though inspired and gorgeous in its own right, tends to be a pretty somber record, so it’s nice to see when, at least comparatively speaking, the band cranks up the tempo and starts partying a bit on this tune, which true to form I believe is the one they’d choose typically for the late night talk show circuit contemporary to the album’s release. All the while the Velvet Underground influence remains strong in this band that people always said sounded like they were from New York, anyway.

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224 Travis Scott – “Antidote”

The Gaslight Anthem, at the beginning of this seemingly doomed decade, uttered the words “The cool is dead”. Well, maybe they were partly right, but they probably didn’t foresee Travis Scott, who in a Rolling Stone interview would declare “I was a thespian, bruh” and claim that he didn’t do drugs because if you licked his blood, you would get high. This song sounds like it’s from somebody who said that, too, resting on blue notes and modicum swagger like he could really care less that his own art form is a Xerox copy of itself at this point.

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223 Khalid – “Talk” feat. Disclosure

Khalid, not to be confused with DJ Khaled, is a pretty pop face who took over the world in ’17 with swooning songs about the girls — what distinguishes “Talk” is the deliberateness, the assertive melodies and that unique, grainy synth texture, for neo-soul music with a hip-hop attitude and swagger.

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222 The National – “Lemonworld”

The National have this unique ability to complain about nothing at all and make it sound perfectly valid — on “Lemonworld” which comes in the middle of the excellent High Violet Matt Berninger desperately seeks the “out of the city” of some girl and her sister, calling to mind the opener of course on Sleep Well Beast in which he rejoices “Nobody else will be there”, in the song of the same name. But “Lemonworld” did it first and believe it or not it has a fruit-juicy pop sheen to justify the title, pleasingly enough.

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221 Daya and the Chainsmokers – “Don’t Let Me down”

You might know The Chainsmokers from that ’15 smash hit “Roses”… Daya is a relative newcomer but they converge here with her on vocals for a tune that though simple you have to admit is relentlessly catchy, with a beautifully textural and oddly mournful set of lead pipes.

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220 Justin Beiber – “What Do You Mean?”

I serendipitously lucked into a free subscription to NME during their last print days earlier this decade and the magazine gave me a newfound respect for Justin Beiber, detailing accounts of him ripping off his shirt in interviews, running around the room seemingly at random and vowing to make people all over the world a “Beleiber.” “What Do You Mean?” comes concurrent with that press appearance and by contemporary pop standards, totes more than its share of tension, spookiness and of course refreshing little-boy inquisitiveness.

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219 Miley Cyrus – “Party in the U.S.A.”

Wow am I glad to finally let the dust settle on all this Miley Cyrus “criticism” of this decade, which took forms both musical and personal pretty profusely, and take stock of the fact that she’s just a human being (daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus whose countrified “Achy Breaky Heart” was big right around when I first started listening to music) with a couple songs, one of which is this one which seems like just about the perfect tune to hear at the end of the night in a crowded college bar. I used to work at one, so I know.

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218 Kendrick Lamar – “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)”

Buried way toward the end of To Pimp a Butterfly, “You Ain’t Gotta Lie” is definitely an easy song to overlook. There’s also the subject matter, which seems to me to just be handling the topic of some chum he’s hanging out with who’s feeling insecure. The idea of course is that Lamar will accept the dude for who he is, stripped of glamorous or illustrious achievements as it even were. Hence “You ain’t gotta lie”. True to form, Lamar’s ferocious vocal chops take over and hog the spotlight over a really chill, jazzy beat.

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217 Grizzly Bear – “Speak in Rounds”

“Speak in Rounds” is the spooky and enchanting second track on the band’s commendable ’12 album Shields which overall I found to be pretty similar to Veckatimest (sometimes mimicry is a good thing in the case of such a classic album), a little bit less baroque and a little more radio friendly, but still distinctly Grizzly Bear, Daniel Rossen’s voice perfectly content to court those notes in a gentle falsetto that still makes its mark with curious fortitude.

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216 Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive”

Apparently Imagine Dragons actually made some albums. How would an Imagine Dragons album START? Well, with “Radioactive,” in specific, which is the first song on their first album Night Visions (though it definitely doesn’t sound like an album opener). If you’re like me you associate this song more with walking through an outdoor mall on a crisp autumn night with people everywhere than with deliberately choosing your extended listening at home, but its catchiness is undeniable and maybe we really are in the “new age” now, though such a thing is obviously relative.

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215 Wilco – “An Empty Corner”

This Ode to Joy finale track sort of has the same texture as album centerpiece “Citizens” — that grainy acoustic guitar and heavy, direct and thumping drums and an overall mix that’s impossibly, defiantly organic, earmarking of course a band that records in its own studio and releases on its own label. Also, the directness of the music itself would seem to correspond with the band’s refreshing ability to put out its album’s without like an eon of pointless hype beforehand.

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214 Melby – “Stress”

Sweden’s Melby seem to have an indelible knack for crafting a pop song — in this case where the tune starts off all dissonant and noodley before abruptly coming to a focused theme around the chorus. The chord progressions are painstaking and gratifying, too, seeming to use every inch of the scale in their exploration for sonic beauty.

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213 Liars – “The Overachievers”

If Liars are any indication, it’s good if a band can get it’s “funky” phase out of the way really early in its career, like a peremptory abiding of the “mandatory fun” rule in rock, and then get to laying down some real grit after they’ve already made you dance, or at least do some funky arm movements on your skateboard. The straight-ahead, crushing punk rock of “The Overachievers” and much of Sisterworld was hinted at on the band’s self-titled predecessor, here with the intensity revved up even greater and the band groove tighter, like a Jesus Lizard with a more palatable, ethereal vocal.

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212 Deerhunter – “Blue Agent”

“Blue Agent” is sort of the companion song to “Pensacola,” Monomania’s excellent centerpiece. In general, I didn’t too voraciously adore this album, but it does have these two solid cuts which seem to catalyze some progress in the Deerhunter catalogue for their ability to give the pop brilliance of Halcyon Digest a reenergized groove.

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211 The National – “Terrible Love”

I remember, for the longest time I could never get into this band, and then one night in probably October of ’10 I had a dream to tell me to buy High Violet and iTunes and put it on my iPod — the melodic richness hit me right away on this album opener as well as the pithy white-boy irony of calling something a “terrible love,” as if an ennui branching from the things that are supposed to be vital and beautiful in life becomes even crueler.

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210 The Dodos – “Transformer”

I swear to God it’s a coincidence that so much of this stuff just happens to be perfect “autumn” music — I think in around ’12 or ’13 we just had a notable string of really nice days in October and November when the wind seemed to whisper soothingly across the entire town and everything seemed calm. This is a fall type of album with a beautiful, quintessential opener — on its surface somber and reflective, but also somehow joyful too, deep down.

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209 Heartless Bastards – “Got to Have Rock ’n Roll”

My days of getting into the two classic Heartless Bastards albums, The Mountain and Arrow, from the latter of which this song culls, are a complete blur of chewing a phat gob of tobacco and cranking up the volume as loud as I could on my Mac laptop, seeming to literally sink into the music with its endlessly eclectic instrumentation and Erika Wennerstrom’s preternatural, hypnotic yowl. Over time, I’ve separated 2009’s The Mountain as the real forerunner with its folky leanings and expansive song structures, but this Arrow cut still gets things going with a raw energy and a curiously angular songwriting approach, given its objective power pop simplicity.

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208 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “Bartomelo and the Buzzing of Bees”

God, Ted Leo’s guitar playing TECHNIQUE is something I just marvel at over and over — this Brutalist Bricks album is a multilayered beast with which on the first five or so listens you’re inclined to look for and showcase the songwriting and the hooks (with good reason, given the master at hand who’s providing them), but the lustrous staples and tape with which his band erect their opus is a distinguishing factor in itself, here among other things taking the form of introductory whammy bar oozing into some inimitable shredding from a rubber-fingered bada**.

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207 The New Pornographers – “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”

I used to have this problem working with this one dude because we were both really into music, would talk about it, but we were both also introverts and did a considerable amount of music listening alone, lending then to an ulterior mood and result when we’d put certain songs like this one on, which is an astonishingly candid love song to somebody who is too simple for these new times, “The living proof of / What they’re calling love / On certain sideways streets / Where things that don’t match meet”.

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206 Beach House – “Better Times”

As you might have figured following 2008’s hearty and underrated Devotion (easily my favorite Beach House album to this day), the primary TEXTURE at work on ’10’s Teen Dream would be the voice of Victoria Legrand itself. Logically, then, it makes sense that the primary emotive driving force behind the music would be her bare human sympathy, her inclination to in this world just be a sensitive and feeling person, an endeavor theoretically hazardous enough to warrant its immediate immortalization within classic pop, of course.

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205 Black Milk – “Closed Chapter” feat. Mr. Porter

“Closed Chapter” rounds off Milk’s 2010 masquerade Album of the Year, a rap record as full and robust as it is hubristic and as soulful and throwback as it is epochal. All over this LP, the beats take an organic turn, favoring live drums and vocals copiously compared to the relative computerized and aptly titled Tronic that came before. Album of the Year is partly a goodbye letter to two of his friends and budding cohort musicians, Hex and Baatin, each of whom has just passed away since his last release. But in “Closed Chapter” he lets all the ponderousness go and proves he’s still crushing it, the lyrical pairing “Almost where I wanna go / But I know I’m not far” resonating with a precociously piercing authority, despite its rather semantically foolish outlay.

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204 Band of Skulls – “Love is All You Love”

In possibly the unlikely comeback story of the year, England’s Band of Skulls have chimed back in this year with what I think is a ferocious return to form, Love is All You Love, complete with this title track that follows on the album some strident expeditions in kinetic energy yet, on its own, seems to possess the kind of sense of feeling and classic rock melody that makes it hard to believe it all came on the same album.

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203 The National – “I Should Live in Salt”

Rounding out the two out of four possible National album openers to make this list, “I Should Live in Salt” showcases the metric unorthodoxies the band would be playing around with at this time, while still nestling within Matt Berninger and company’s signature playbook of idyllically melancholic songwriting. One theme playing into his lyricism at this time was his relationship with his brother, who’d become unemployed and destitute and had to take up lodging with him while he rebounded.

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202 James Bay – “Let it Go”

This song came out concurrent with my brief print subscription to NME (during its thereby brief run as a print publication, as it were) and I remember them putting together a pretty illuminating interview with this dude, whose status as radio stud/heartthrob certainly belies the organic “rock” instrumentation at work on this song and its aching, absorptive sense of hook.

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201 Aloha – “White Wind”

2010’s Home Acres, the last great album from Pittsburgh’s indie-pop geniuses Aloha, is sort of a cross between the catchy brilliance of ’04’s Here Comes Everyone and ’06’s eclectic and textural Some Echoes, bringing both to a head in a sense of this keenly poignant songwriting and a band infrastructure capable of weaving this incredibly spooky and surreal sonic tapestry with nothing but guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

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200 Liars – “Goodnight Everything”

It’s sad but I remember sitting at home on this one Saturday night feeling almost hilariously misanthropic, with the weekend off from this job I vehemently despised and really sinking into this dark and twisted tale from my favorite noir punks: “Soon your little world will fall apart”, a vociferous threat seemingly aimed at the nation’s elite and wealthy. Even if it hasn’t really rung true, which is probably even a good thing, the music does somehow collect this uncanny ability to unify the underprivileged and downtrodden, something punk rock was always supposed to do from its start.

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199 Green Day – “Wild One”

Technically they’re three different albums, Uno, Dos and Tre from ’12, but I don’t really distinguish between the three — “Wild One,” which culls from Dos, has basically the same delicious pop succinctness as “Oh Love” from Uno or “A Little Boy Named Train” from Tre. In this case, especially, I get a slight “Worry Rock” from Nimrod feel (a song Weezer once tried to cover to altogether regrettable results), for its deliberate pace, infectious memorability and of course that ploy of repeating the song’s main chorus theme at the end of the song, just to solidify the feel.

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198 The Hives – “If I Had a Cent”

The Hives are sort of an interesting exploration in rock, a band so devoid of gimmick that every American culture snit readily throws them under the bus as trendy neo-garage rockers, a band that is nothing if not funny, belting out cacophonous, carnivorous slabs of punk rock like “Walk Idiot Walk” and “Diabolic Scheme,” in which singer Pelle Almqvist declares that he was inside a girl’s head “by diabolical send”. Some things are just meant to be. But the band came flying back into form on ’12’s Lex Hives, one of the most underrated records of the decade and commendable no less for its provision of “If I Had a Cent,” one of the band’s more serious numbers to date, a plain, straight-ahead, angry and blistering rocker that’s still not above the occasional quip: “I can always spot your friends by the dagger in their back”.

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197 Flying Lotus – “9 Carrots” feat. Toro y Moi

“9 Carrots” is… well… the 23rd track on Flamagra, Flying Lotus’ burning pantheon pyre of a record from this year, so that even locating it becomes as hard of a task as trying to denote what “kind” of Flying Lotus album this is or what kind of artist he exists as amongst his cohorts and the larger culture. I think the fact that this music seems to absorb light and wield an indescribable meaning of its own, then, caters to the idea that we just live in a culture of chaos these days, so that those who most aptly capture everyday life in a bottle will in doing so fall shortest of making any sort of definitive statement about their surroundings.

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196 Kid Cudi – “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young”

I must admit to a rather amateur understanding of Cleveland’s Kid Cudi, a man who though did help to ease the hip-hop era into the neo-R&B era with relative ease and painlessness by way of undeniably catchy and great songs like “Pursuit of Happiness,” a man whose rapping style on this undeniable anthem for youth is as laid back as Ka’s while traipsing across our psyches with sure-fire victory, having gotten out of the ghetto by virtue of his musical genius.

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195 Kanye West – “On Sight”

I think when we saw the album title Yeezus it was probably like one more nail in the coffin of our conception of the world’s proper functioning — that is until we heard the music, which is so undeniably catchy and “digital” in every sense of the term, like Bobby Digital mixed and computerized but also natural, off-the-cuff and essentially black, that at least we had the right swagger and attitude all of a sudden for facing this post-apocalyptic age before us.

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194 Deerhunter – “Pensacola”

I allude to the great and might “Pensacola” in the “Blue Agent” blurb, calling the two centerpiece tracks akin to each other. One awesome thing about this tune is that it finds Bradford Cox giving off this “Whoo!” toward the end after the line “Nothing ever turns out exactly like you planned”, seeming to almost stand as a dance upon the funeral pyre of rock music, or Deerhunter’s ultimacy therein, each of which would be more than justified by the circumstances.

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193 The Jesus and Mary Chain – “The Two of Us”

The JMC’s listenable ’17 outing conjealed decisively around this little anthem of which the lyrical hook proclaims itself as “The two of us are getting high / We don’t need drugs ’cause we know how to fly”. Part of the song’s appeal to me, ironically, lies in its very similarity to the band’s early and founding stuff (a little cleaner than Psychocandy, it certainly sounds like it could have come from Darklands), with Jim Reid settling in to that time-honored Britpop m.o. and sounding more like himself, rendering his band as more JMC, perhaps, than ever.

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192 Wilco – “Quiet Amplifier”

Lots of things jump out at the listener or casual Wilco fan on even a cursory listen to “Quiet Amplifier,” like the tense, plaintive march of the snare drums, the gradual build from wild ethereality to punchy climax, but perhaps most importantly Jeff Tweedy’s mournful, moaning sort of singing style, which we’ve sort of been getting glimpses of on Schmilco and all over his solo album WARM. “Quiet Amplifier” seems the full realization of its proper musical backdrop, a long, gorgeous and belabored session of unorthodox sounds and undeniable tension, making for a worthy centerpiece on an album that seems to defy you to try to figure it all out.

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191 Cigarettes after Sex – “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby”

Typically I’m sort of an albums purist so I ignore solitary singles when they come out, but this was a new band with a couple of intriguing factors, like an eye-catching name and a Velvet Underground sound that suggests a New York origin, rather than the El Paso homestead from which they hail. 2016’s “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” was a complete bath of gentle guitar and vocal, unlike anything else that was happening around that time for its sheer ambient purposefulness. Sure enough, this act as paid off as something continually rewarding since then, and they’re not done yet.

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190 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “Last Days”

By the time you get to track 13 on The Brutalist Bricks, Ted Leo’s roaring 2010 LP, you’ve already heard more than enough timeless power pop to constitute a classic album. “Last Days” takes things one step further than the contemporary, suggesting that these are really the “last days,” in which we’re living, then only to dash the thing asunder at the end with the admission: “When the world don’t end / We can sit around and laugh about that too”. But a lot of us were actually scared and that’s why Leo’s earnest disposition works, that last qualifier the exception and not the rule of his general sense of urgency he carries in all his meaningful projects.

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189 Band of Skulls – “Not the Kind of Nothing I Know”

This album track of Love is All You Love I think romps along with an amusing sort of attitude and also has these catchy rock cadences that take me back to the golden era of classic rock, as if Band of Skulls still value the craft over gimmick or image, something truly rare these days.

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188 Tegan and Sara – “I Was a Fool”

Maybe I AM a fool for gravitating to this glossy stab at mainstream success from this girl group that was supposed to be the arbiters of such subversive, galvanizing indie rock all those years. But Tegan and Sara sound on this cut like a group that LOVES acts like Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan, more than proudly then taking the baton here for their own take on the world of romance and all its hazards, in supremely catchy form.

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187 Missy Elliott – “WTF (Where They From)” feat. Pharrell Williams

For all her skill and verve, there’s also no denying the elite help along the way Missy’s got in her career, from Timbaland back in the late ’90s to Pharrell here, who’s beat here on this rowdy ode to hometowns is as busy and crazy as the last N.E.R.D. album, as if his array of influences going into it were even more mind-boggling than the idea for the song itself.

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186 Jidenna – “Classic Man”

For the longest time when I thought about this song it pi**ed me off, all the ego, all the self-touting… but he** isn’t that what rappers do anyway? Why should it be different for the R&B boys? They can’t be heartbroken all the time, can they? So in this way, in a sense, Jidenna’s sneering, hubristic masterpiece earmarks the true changing of the guards from rap to R&B this decade, when the latter style truly became CLASSIC with the help of a couple silver-toothed, muscle-bound rogues like this.

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185 Grizzly Bear – “Sleeping Ute”

When following up an album as glorious as Veckatimest, it’s almost obviated that the new result will be something really ostentatious like this where the style, or the “scheme,” outweighs the substance and the band’s message is cloaked in all the theoretical and sonic wizardry it can dig up. Then there’s the title — not really sure what to make of that other than that they probably just wanted to divorce themselves from their own reality to the greatest extent possible, in the meantime pleasing their fans with something undeniably rhythmic and quelling what must have been otherwise the droves of angry hipsters wanting a “new Grizzly Bear album.”

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184 Junip – “Walking Lightly”

The Swedish Junip sauntered lightly into our hearts at the start of this decade with gentle folk-pop, a straw Fedora and a pipe… I think their vision came to a lucid head on ’13’s self-titled LP and this album centerpiece in particular, which finds Jose Gonzalez repeating the song’s mantra theme in vocals countless, contented times at the end, fully pleased with the forged vision and musical result as he should be.

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183 White Rabbits – “Temporary”

Every time I try to pin down Brooklyn’s White Rabbits, they throw something else completely eccentric and bonkers at me, like this weird, fu**ed synth sound that opens track five “Temporary,” a wild roller coaster ride of funk pop in itself which in fact follows on Milk Famous two of the catchiest songs of the decade. “Temporary” sews Milk Famous together in its own way for its ability to represent an occasion of heavy action, which of course is sure to dissipate with natural change hence cementing its “temporariness,” just as it is on the album.

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182 Meat Puppets – “Incomplete”

Ok. Nobody would confuse Curt Kirkwood with Clay Aiken, on a technical level of vocal chops. Take away that minor frivolity, and this has got to be considered one of the best rock bands on the planet, with several infectious romps of pop-punk bubbling up in the ’80s, that ’90s Nirvana/”Backwater” thing they had going on and then heartbreaking swatches of reflection within this last century as well as decade. This Lollipop opener, apropos, chimes in with undeniable purpose and pop greatness, beautifully soundtracking the malady of growing older and coming upon certain maligning realizations, thereupon.

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181 Erika Wennerstrom – “Extraordinary Love”

I must admit to having been very skeptical of the 2018 solo album from Heartless Bastards’ Erika Wennerstrom prior to its release — for one thing the title, Sweet Unknown, was taken straight from a song of her old band, the albeit great “Could Be So Happy.” I was fully blown away though — it’s an epic album of sweeping and genuine rock songs, “Extraordinary Love” coming together around a nice, catchy chorus but also showcasing itself as “album” status with some wailing guitar juxtaposed against some earnest, singer-songwriter lyrics, very much like a female foil to Neil Young might be inclined to do.

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180 The National – “Demons”

Even if it didn’t transform it into The National’s BEST music of the decade, I was pretty glad to see them initiate some meter weirdness on 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me, with opener “I Should Live in Salt” toying around with sevens and then track two “Demons,” the best track on the album, diving full-on into regular 7/4 time signature, Matt Berninger’s voice sounding amusingly earnest and plain, all the while. I think this is song is meant to be delivered from his destitute brother who was living with him at the time but I’m not entirely sure.

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179 The Dodos – “Bastard”

It was 2015 and I just couldn’t seem to get psyched about anything — I was really sick of trap, Taylor Swift, people dressing so preppy — the world had pretty much seemed to have gone to sh** and I was sitting in the IUSB library this one summer evening taking shelter from the mosquitoes and I happened upon the new Dodos album on Youtube, my only free music listening method at the time. I put it on on my ear buds and pretty much it was a throwback, to Carrier, their album prior, and Time to Die (a little bit fuller and more sonically seamless than Visiter, a relatively conceptual album), so it was good enough for the time being, at least. “Bastard” was the showstopper though, and where I really took note of the album as a step forward, an obliteration of tempo, groove and the concept of musical precursor, favoring percussion-free contemplation, a brooding, bluesy and incessant riff and the simple vocal thesis: “I’m not longer your bastard”, the melancholy and joy in this realization forming the singularity of the stew that would be the music’s vehicle.

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178 No Age – “Send Me”

Every No Age album has been a little bit different from the others up to this point. I know for me, straight-ahead rockers like “Send Me,” even for as catchy as they are, took a while to really make their home in my mind, partly also because Snares Like a Haircut is so cloaked in sonic exploration and dissonance. As a band gets older, there’s only so many of these pop nuggets they have left in them, so credit No Age with at least knowing how to juxtapose anthems like this and not trying to write songs that aren’t there.

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177 The Gaslight Anthem – “Boxer”

Ah, what to say about The Gaslight Anthem… they’re just the masters of garage rock, American Slang coming to its centerpiece here with Brian Fallon’s close, sympathetic examination of a boxer with “tattooed knuckles” who finds his “stitches on the radio”. I guess you could say with all the “radio” themes that pop up on this album and later on Handwritten that it’s ironic that these guys aren’t more of an FM staple. But this is some universally approachable music. That much is for sure.

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176 Pixel Grip – “Diamonds”

The voice of Pixel Grip’s Rita Lukea is something to inspire awe in the listener — first of all on “Diamonds,” it doesn’t even sound like the same person the whole time, with the timbres undulating into an unrecognizable alto for the verse, only the reemerge as that charming, canary-like soprano for the chorus that just sounds existentially ordained for chirping out these naïve love songs.

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175 Liars – “Mess on a Mission”

I’m very thankful for 2014’s Mess having made Liars’ seemingly inevitable transition from punk to electro (the same genre shift we saw on the parts of HEALTH and Abe Vigoda before them, among others) a relatively painless injection. Almost to pad their amount of artistic credibility they’d wield on this stylistic exploration, though, they throw in this dark, thumping centerpiece track here that almost seems to act as their primary band theory, being called “Liars,” coming around to the chorus “Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction”.

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174 Grimes – “Genesis”

Now, I’d discovered Grimes on 2010’s Halfaxa by way of the now-defunct journal Coke Machine Glow, so when we got around to 2012’s Visions it was definitely like Grimes Lite, not that I was particularly complaining about that seeing as Halfaxa was like, incredibly fu**ed up, for lack of a better term. On the ensuing Visions, anyway, the shrill, potent vocals are still there, and the pop showmanship she demonstrates usually assembles itself to decent results, with this song sort of aurally embodying some new hope she’s found in the world, by way of melody.

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173 Mr. Little Jeans – “Rescue Song”

I was all over this Mr. Little Jeans record Pocketknife in 2014 which I randomly discovered by googling “beirut,” ranking it second of the year and fully enamored with the voluminous pop blueprint transmitted in songs like this excellent opener. Surprisingly, she’s been really quiet since then, but there’s still a lot to unpack here, like how full the song sounds with almost ambient drums, and how obtuse but also essential the main lyrical theme stands as: “You’ve gotta rescue you / So you can rescue me too”.

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172 Low Life – “92”

The voice of Mitch Tolman in Australia’s punk-oriented Low Life just SOUNDS so punk that to be honest it kind of helps the music, similar to how Pink Floyd are better off doing overly conceptual art rock than Beach Boys pop. If you walked into the room and heard their excellent new record Downer Edn., even if you weren’t even inclined to ask who the band was, you’d know that it was PUNK, and you’d know what punk rock was, by pure virtue of hearing this music. Swell Maps and Wire are sure influences, anyway.

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171 The Dandy Warhols – “Pope Reverend Jim”

Easily the best Dandy Warhols record since …The Dandy Warhols Come down, Distortland is also stupefyingly underrated and misunderstood — did Consequence of Sound really say they weren’t doing anything new on this album when the second song is basically a full-on industrial track? “Pope Reverend Jim” perpetuates the crazy, frenetic spirit grafted on “Semper Fidelis,” veering things toward pop-punk with almost like a twisted, dancy noir element, showcasing the horrifying places this band can take you when they score enough coke.

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170 Flying Lotus – “Remind U”

“Remind U” rests as a more than worthy earmark of Flying Lotus’ ability to occupy a precious space between electronica and hip-hop. It comes in all orchestral, with this eclectic array of instruments planting down this ultra-melodic, almost Christmasey vibe, before unleashing some drums that take you right back to the golden era of rap, Swiss Beatz, Kanye or what have you — the point is that the vibe is there and this is undeniably complete American music.

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169 Cat Power – “Horizon”

Ooh… how does she get that piano to resonate like that? This stuff sends droves of You Are Free memories into my mind, that eerie bareness and intimacy that you get with songwriters of this level of genuineness. During the song, singer Chan Marshall makes references to nondescript, ephemeral characters “lover”; “father” and “sister.” The lyrics, meanwhile, are vague and also muttered in a very textural, grainy voice, making them somewhat hard to grasp and understand. Still, though, it doesn’t seem to matter, as the music lies as something so warming as to invite everyone in for a universal experience of transcendence.

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168 Julia Holter – “I Shall Love 2”

Now we come to LA’s pop maestro Julia Holter, who’s almost impossible to mention without accompanying comparisons to Cat Power, it would seem. Here, though, everything takes a significant steer toward the electronic, with programmed drums laying down obstinate rhythms and liquefied synth replacing the colonial-era piano. I thought in general Aviary, though gratifying, was primarily an experimental album for Holter, which can render the ironic case of this pop song mimicking her old stuff but still coming across as LESS fully developed, or developed to a greater extent in sound and not in blueprint.

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167 Menomena – “Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such a Big Boy”

To be honest this band’s ’08 album Friend and Foe was critically acclaimed and everything but I just couldn’t bring myself to get into it, for some reason — the music seemed vanilla and failed to make a great impression. 2010’s Mines is basically just so weird that once you hear it you’ll never forget it. But it does offer certain sporadic moments where the songwriter, who shall remain unnamed since this band is impossible to get a hold of and doesn’t have “Personnel” sections for their albums’ Wikipedia pages, lifts the veil of comedy and irony and invites us into his personal living he**. In this case, it’s the haunting declaration of “All your love / Is not enough / To fill my half-empty cup”, the jagged, riffy piano plotting things down almost like a horror theme with spooky efficacy.

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166 tUnE-yArDs – “Powa”

This is where tUnE-yArDs cranks up the power chords and unleashes her inner Jefferson Airplane, fighting for her life against “life’s humiliations” before finally pleading “Why won’t you bomb me?” But the music remains upright and kinetic enough that there’s something to rest on there to balance out all the calamity and personally I just can’t get enough of Merrill Garbus’ voice, which seems almost ironically classically trained, as if she’s both mocking the institution of academic music and at the same time moaning at the fact that she doesn’t bark like an Elle King.

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165 The Hives – “Midnight Shifter”

Here comes another one of my Lex Hives spiels: well it happens to be one of my favorite road trip albums along with Wolf Parade – At Mount Zoomer, The Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks and Sleater-Kinney – The Woods, a haunting step forward from Tyrannosaurus Hives for one thing for Pelle Almqvist’s newfound, gut check earnestness, as on the penultimate “If I Had a Cent” and his admission of “And my head hangs down”. Yeah, his sense of humor isn’t keeping him warm at night anymore and he had to grow as an artist. “Midnight Shifter” strikes me as his victory lap after that key cathartic moment, still firmly grounded in reality but assembling a sort of game plan for this ensuing period in life in which happiness can really take an increased effort.

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164 Black Milk – “Oh Girl” feat. AB

Album of the Year tends to be a kind of a somber, intense affair (though always set to festive and invigorating beats all the way through) so it’s nice to hear Milk get relatively light-hearted on this one, belting out this simple but anthemic ode to the fairer sex. Part of the entertainment value for me lies in getting to hear him keep asking “Yeah how you want it” in that thick, street Detroit accent that makes it sound like “how you wone it”. Also he brings in live background vocalists, a rhapsodic ploy for granting the music some real vitality and swagger.

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163 Wilco – “Before Us”

Anybody who’s followed Wilco through the years knows that, for all their valor and musical chivalry they’re capable of summoning up, can certainly veer sometimes toward the “identity crisis” territory, dipping their dirty hands into electronica or absurdism in the form of uncomfortable amounts of repetition. They’ve sort of been growing and getting the kinks out, that is, all along the way, and continue to do so on the beastly Ode to Joy and its second track “Before Us,” whereon Jeff Tweedy sounds conspicuously, almost tragically urbane, given how otherwise perfect of a steel guitar laden country rock song this is. And so the identity crisis looms. But maybe that’s half the fun of this band.

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162 Green Day – “X-Kid”

Green Day’s Tre is like this perfect little underdog rock album, culminating in the beautiful “The Forgotten” but replete with memorable rock nuggets all along, and well sequenced. “X-Kid” appears fifth, is catchy and brilliant, also universally enjoyable, sung to the approachable realm of somebody who used to be a kid, which is to say, everybody who’s not currently a kid. Yet Billie Joe somehow always remains youthful, even looking today a solid two decades younger than he actually is, and sounding it on gems like this as well.

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161 Allah-Las – “Holding Pattern”

Allah-Las, a band from LA, a name so bizarrely phonetic that is makes them definitely sound like they’re the Beach Boys, deliver music that oddly I thought was rather autumnal and soundtracked this current cloudy, 45-degree day we’re having here in Indiana flawlessly. It’s got the deliberate, spooky majesty of Grizzly Bear but an even crisper pop sense, like the band covering twee pop classics. Perhaps best, though, is their expansive understanding of structure, with a lengthy, textural guitar solo plotted down after just one verse, to only give way to a miniature return to the song’s vocal theme before the conclusion.

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160 Radiohead – “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief”

The penultimate track on the beautiful A Moon Shaped Pool is little more or less than a precious paper crane, crumbling before your gentle, cajoling hands. Per report, lots of these songs were written as long ago as two decades, but this should hardly discredit the LP which still plays as spooky, majestic and perennially listenable, all the way through to the end.

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159 Women – “Drag open”

There really haven’t been too many bands on the planet like Calgary, Canada’s Women, whose guitarist Chris Reimer passed away in his sleep in 2012 at age 26, hence ending the band’s existence (the band would later briefly become Viet Cong). An electrifying live show during their time, they took Sonic Youth’s blueprint of merging noise rock and Beatles pop and channeled it into something even arguably more focused and better, their potential for grafting whiplash-inducing kinetic energy on wax brought to an orgiastic head on “Drag open,” filled with unorthodox rock phrasings and Pat Flegel’s almost hilariously nasal yowl.

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158 Deerhunter – “Fountain Stairs”

The themes of boredom and loneliness abound all over this still precocious and gorgeous 2010 album Halcyon Digest, making just a cameo appearance in this shiny Lockett Pundt tune, thankfully: “Found a chapter on symmetry / Nobody cares” before giving way to some uplifting psychedelia “When I look around / I can feel it spinning / Feet on the ground / Head on the ceiling”, an inner-channeled beauty to correspond strangely with the outer spectacle of the majestic “fountain stairs.”

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157 White Rabbits – “Danny Come inside”

“Danny Come inside” is an, um, BOLDLY named, energetic dirge that comes late within the voluminous pop orchard that is this band’s ’12 album Milk Famous, reinstating the band’s strong and impeccably rendered Velvet Underground influence and taking up about a week’s lodging in your head, if you’re lucky, for some workplace head nodding or stoned classic rock homage.

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156 DJ Snake – “Get Low (Neo Fresco Remix)” feat. Dillon Francis, Neo Fresco

There’s a Wikipedia page on “Get Low” by DJ Snake and Dillon Francis and should it speaketh correctly, there are no less than eight different versions of this song, this one appearing last on the compilation called Remixes EP and in my opinion channeling to the greatest extent, a light, danceable and party-ready permutation of the cut. The infectiousness of that voice-over is inevitable when Snake starts splicing the world “low” in on itself for an absurdist gaggle of hypnotic, minimalist repetition.

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155 Volbeat – “A Warrior’s Call”

I have to admit the first time I heard this song I was like this is some fratty co** rock due for imminent irrelevance but then this other dude I worked with had it on his music and all of a sudden it was just so CRUNK the second or third time I heard it that I was hooked in — I’m guessing I’d had a few more disheartening interpersonal experiences by that point in my life, too. That would probably make sense.

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154 Kanye West – “So Appalled” feat. Jay-Z, Pusha-T, CyHi the Prynce, Swiss Beatz, RZA

I always thought the name of this song should have been “Ridiculous” or “Fu**in’ Ridiculous,” or something along those lines: it appears ninth on Kanye’s sprawling mindfu** My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and features the chorus in one permutation of “Champagne dishes and different exotic fishes / I mean the sh** is fu**in’ ridiculous” and then the bridge of “Life can be sometimes ridiculous”. It’s Jay-Z who utters the line “I’m so appalled / I might buy the mall / Just to show you how much more I have in store” (somehow all the while rhyming “mall” with “store” as maybe only he could, or maybe him and Andre 3000). So you combine the hubris element of Hova garnering the title with just his grotesque ambition to flaunt his wealth and somehow this joint still yanks more than you expect it to, every time you put it on, with infinite freshness and a sneer mean enough to soundtrack our times.

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153 Imagine Dragons – “Believer”

There had to be some underdog way the mainstream could push rock ahead in 2017 and after and Las Vegas’ Imagine Dragons managed to do so with just unmistakable intensity and songwriting vision, an achievement as remarkable as making someone a “believer” in these cynical times in the first place, which I guess they did in a certain sense.

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152 Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts – “Way She Moves”

In its own sophomoric, ear-bleeding sort of way, the 2015 Blaster album from Scott Weiland’s band is actually a fairly well-rounded rock LP, with stomping opener “Modzilla” pumping forth as a sort of inimitable statement of maniacal independence, but then “Way She Moves,” track two, getting right into mourning over a girl, something we’re obviously pretty accustomed to hearing from Weiland at this point. The music remains energetic and inspired, though, hewing itself onto the general theme while also carrying its own unique, melancholy tinge.

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151 Coldplay – “Paradise”

Sometimes a single as invincible and perennially playable as “Paradise” strolls around and it’s hard to believe it’s even ON an album at all but this gem does sparkle off of 2011’s Mylo Xyloto. I have to admit I’m not overly familiar with the rest of this album but must also confess to not having been able to find a band song on 2015’s A Head full of Dreams, whether from my lack of industriousness and tenacity or whatever. But this band has been quietly putting together a pretty solid decade, oddly enough.

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150 Animal Collective – “Recycling”

I have to say I hadn’t listened to this album closeur on Painting with Animal Collective in a couple years and was barely even still familiar with it, wondering, will I find it bland? And obnoxiously enough many constituents were clamoring that the band hadn’t produced a “hit single” off this album (which is sort of like accusing Jason of not having a cute pose for the movie camera). Well, dupe me you won’t, ’cause this COULD play in a bar, if not necessarily a grocery store, getting by on a fantastic, very dichotomous chord scheme and introductorily the weirdest set of confluent sounds I’ve heard since the end of Ween’s “Don’t Laugh (I Love You).”

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149 Wilco – “You Satellite”

I absolutely loved this trippy, heavily Velvet Underground-influenced ’15 one-off from the band Star Wars and this sort of forceful-by-near-absence centerpiece, whereon almost every inch of the music seems to pierce the register with a grating sound while also being mellow and carrying those thundering, organic drums. I included this song on my “Beach Rock” mix — actually I’m pretty sure this album came out that summer and would definitely worthily soundtrack a stoned car ride back from the beach with more than aptitude.

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148 The National – “Walk it back”

Out came a new National album in ’17, Sleep Well Beast, an album that followed a four-year break from new release by the band and spoke to a different sort of world, one populated by the political emergence of Donald Trump, the emaciation of the Affordable Care Act and generally I think a sort of unprecedentedly bleak and beleaguered stature of mainstream music in America. Oddly, though, The National, instead of getting political, seemed to get more personal than ever, often to thrilling results, as on the acutely and forcefully intimate album opener “Nobody Else Will Be There” and this authoritative track three here, which finds Matt Berninger’s voice almost hushed to a whisper, but still delivering unmistakable lines in a beautiful, vibrating and genuine baritone.

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147 Flying Lotus – “Debbie is Depressed”

Yup, the last Flying Lotus album really does have 27 songs on it — sure lots of them are little interludes like the jagged baroque piano blip “Say Something.” “Debbie is Depressed,” then, while on one count amusingly echoing the “Debbie Downer” phenomenon, caught my ear for its return back to rhythmic jazz ambience in flying form, with this sort of elusive way of being both mournful and joyful at one time, this mysterious black vocal sending things flying into the night.

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146 Sharon Van Etten – “One Day”

Perhaps the most consistent track on Van Etten’s disarming debut EP Epic, “One Day” chugs along with relatively innocuous subject matter as a sort of inner soul searching and acknowledgement of limitation in the self, to refreshingly counter certain attacks on others she makes elsewhere on this album. Her voice is velvety as it has every right to be for the song’s earnestness, but also out of cooperation with listening habits of the masses, as a bona fide radio tune should be.

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145 Pixies – “Los Surfers Muertos”

Right off the bat in the intro, “Los Surfers Muertos” carries that signature tension we found in crazy outbursts by this band like “Dead”; “River Euphrates” and myriad others, but somewhat refreshingly, the intensity is turned down a bit as it should be in old age, with 2019’s Beneath the Eyrie moseying along as the natural, but still inspired, Pixies progression to cater to their older ages. But oh, look, they’re doing something new after all: taking the tone down to a hush for a veritable ghost story that’s set, as the opening lines dictate, “On a beach in Mexico”. Looks like the devilish minds never really grow old.

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144 Lower Dens – “Lamb”

This album sure hasn’t gotten its due props — it got an 8.2 on Pitchfork (while narrowly left off “Best New Music” I think) and I discovered this band from their billing on the ’12 Pitchfork Music Festival, immediately falling in love with their Brian Eno style of production on Nootropics, which sort of sounds like Tina Weymouth writing a mournful electro-pop album. Lower Dens hail from Baltimore and make dark, brooding and relentlessly genuine autumnal music, with “Lamb” cementing the whole thing together in the middle with a serious emotional climax and melodic tapestry.

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143 Beach House – “Real Love”

For all its beauty and pop approachability, there’s still a lot of hard, sort of tough-love lessons being broached by Victoria Legrand across 2010’s masterpiece Teen Dream. In this case, it’s a welcoming sigh of relief when get to some optimistic brightness toward the end, this song with the lines “In the black room the light / Watch the seabird fall / Real love it finds you / Somewhere with your back to it”, the declaration coming off like a gift that will be a blessing to the protagonist. Still, the song barely limps along in tempo, like something tired of the search, and the mood emerges as haunting and spookily real.

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142 In Limbo – “Bass Trek”

In general, I’m not sure how great my funky white boy escapades on this site will go over with certain sectors of the population. Anyway, full disclosure: this is one of ’em, with a great mix offering a protrusive and organic drum sound and a bass texture so deep and thick I swear you sink right into it. At large, Biohazard, In Limbo’s album from 2019, is sort of half classic rock and half hardcore, sort of like what Fu**ed up or Titus Andronicus were billed as, in this case the production seeming to breathe a little more, as well as the band members themselves when they’re belting out these devil-may-care riots of songs.

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141 Deerhunter – “Helicopter”

For some reason in 2010 when I was figuring out if I liked an album I had this habit of picking a song right in the middle, or one where I’d say, if this song is good, the rest of the album definitely is. “Helicopter” for that reason is the first song I heard off Halcyon Digest and my God was it unlike anything the band had done to date — the Velvet Underground influence seemed to be there but more so, like it had been fermented down to something even more precious and fragile, an unabashed song of homoerotic mourning (“We know he loves you the best”) and steely gaze at aging (“No one cares for me / I keep no company / I have minimal needs / And now they are through with me”), the proud, major chord progression stalwartly keeping it from being a sappy whine-fest.

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140 Menomena – “Five Little Rooms”

Mines by Menomena is certainly an interesting album because on one hand it’s art rock, with songs that aren’t even so much complex as they are conceptual and highly distinct (a characteristic slightly akin to Pavement, also from the Northwest), but at the same time they’re so self-loathing that it profusely avoids the trap of “stoner rock.” Indeed, Menomena sound more influenced by pithy erudites like Jean Genet and Truman Capote than by Led Zeppelin and Lord of the Rings, as in the minimalistic and plangent “Five Little Rooms,” easily the strangest song I’ve ever heard.

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139 The Antlers – “I Don’t Want Love”

Sort of ignoring their first album for some reason, I found New York’s The Antlers to really hit their stride on sophomore effort Burst apart and particularly this album opener, which is as grandiose as it is catchy, sort of like Broken Social Scene cover The New Pornographers after getting dumped for their brother.

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138 Radiohead – “Daydreaming”

Following the haunting and thrilling opener and lead single “Burn the Witch” on A Moon Shaped Pool as it does, “Daydreaming” usurps attention too in its own way for the defiant, forceful way it lowers the tempo and volume for one big soft, unsolvable riddle of jazzy arpeggios and unabashed Caucasian vagueness. And don’t check the Pitchfork review for this album for any insight into this cut: it’s tongue-in-cheek all the way, sung from the point of view of a veritable robot working within the capitalistic machine, with the synthetic disposition of “We’re happy here to serve you” as evidence of his completely annihilated identity.

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137 The Gaslight Anthem – “Bring it on”

So catchy songs and noddable grooves aside, I’ve been trying to figure out this Brian Fallon character over the years, the lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem and I have no choice but to conclude that he’s “a greedy man,” like his fellow New Yorker James Brown. I mean on the track before this, the blistering “Stay Lucky,” he’s set in Manhattan on a conquest and right away this track opens with the plea “My queen of the Bronx”, only to progress to “If he’s better than my love / Bring it on”. But all of American Slang has a beautiful way of varying itself from track to track, this tempo set more in contemplation mode, to then reignite and combust later in the LP, as it holistically were.

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136 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “Ativan Eyes”

One time I wrote a post specifically about this song and a funny experience I had with it, where I looked up the meaning of “Ativan” as a way of trying to discover something pure and off the beaten path, only to find that it’s actually the name of a prescription drug used to treat depression, or anxiety, or something along those lines. And so Leo’s sense of irony strikes again, where most artists would want to “rage against the machine” or be “true to their souls” or whatever, he just wants another shot in the arm of human bliss, by any means necessary. It’s great power pop on a great, underrated and consistent album, The Brutalist Bricks.

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135 Grizzly Bear – “gun-shy”

Shields, Grizzly Bear’s 2012 offering, is an interesting album to me for its quality of certain of the songs to sort of mock another song in mood, tempo and intensity, sort of like how Modest Mouse’s “Out of Gas” is almost a repetition of “Heart Cooks Brain” — in this case “gun-shy” saunters along with the same languid gait as “Yet Again,” to pleasing results, not surprisingly. The phenomenon reminds me a little bit of when a classical composer will reintroduce one theme or strain in a later movement of a symphony that was plopped somewhere before too. Also check this video out if you want to see something really sketchy.

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134 Stephen Malkmus – “Viktor Borgia”

Out of nowhere, Stephen Malkmus has put out a collection of music this decade that would put other artists to jealousy, if not shame, with ’18’s Sparkle Hard with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and then Groove Denied of ’19. It’s almost like he said, oop, the decade’s ending, I gotta beat all these other chumps just to say I did it… but really he probably wanted to interpolate our culture with some music to buoy us during this weird Donald Trump time. Groove Denied, his solo record, is the electro answer to the concise indie pop of Sparkle Hard, cooking up some kooky sounds on diamond cuts like this one where it sounds like he took an expert sense of music and song craft to a hilariously kindergarten-ish understanding of digital programming, to always entertaining results though.

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133 Ya$e – “Put Ya Money up”

Ok I’m not kidding you: this awesome new rapper Ya$e I discovered this year does not show up on Wikipedia searches, does not show up on Bandcamp searches: he doesn’t even show up on GOOGLE searches. And it’s not even like it SOUNDS underground. He’s got an energetic, genuine flow, sort of like Drake, but the beats sound really mainstream too: it’s like an Eminem phenomenon where a gritty, street-smart rapper starts beating up really commercial beats, so you hit both sides of the popular/edgy spectrum. And Ya$e is white as well, though he looks a little mixed: if I had to guess I’d say he’s Canadian, since his music isn’t like hilariously formulaic and awful like trap, and it’s also not underground sounding.

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132 Pitbull – “Fun” feat. Chris Brown

I can’t even explain Pitbull any way other than this: he’s like Party Boy. Everywhere he goes there’s just a party: he’s a born emcee with a great flow, a Latino dude from Miami who loves hip-hop and feels it in his bones. This whole Globalization album tends to be pretty much a banger from what I’ve heard, with this sort of the co-biggest single along with “Fireball,” another song that combines the main man’s rapping with a dance, pop appeal, in perfect alignment with the general mode of mainstream music this decade.

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131 Blur – “I Broadcast”

The melodies and grooves are so strong and prominent on this ’15 Blur album The Magic Whip that it’s hard to remember that the drums in this song are actually programmed, and not live, deviating from most of the rest of this band’s catalogue. Really the whole first minute of this song is almost comically busy and complex, basically ruling out the possibility that you’ll ever get sick of it, which is kind of a good thing since the main theme of the song does tend to be a tad simple, the better for catchiness.

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130 Fleet Foxes – “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me”

Of course my classic spiel about this ’17 album Crack-up is that it marks a turn away from Sub Pop Records to a new label Warner Bros., which is sort of like getting the creative “shackles” taken off and entering a new realm where they can take time in the studio and really get down to expressing. Sub Pop, for all their obvious prowess and authority in the business, is suspected at least by me of putting their bands on overly rigorous touring schedules (their feisty marketing techniques would suggest such a staunchly capitalistic m.o.) “If You Need to, Keep Time on Me” is the mellow, contemplative centerpiece of the album, a perfect slow-down song for a world and decade spinning fast and out of control, and a perfect respite from the professional pressure cooker to which they’d prior been subjected.

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129 No Age – “Dusted”

As far as I know this is the FIRST No Age instrumental ever put to wax on one of their albums, a tersely minimalistic and straight-ahead statement on guitar texture and hypnotic melody that plays almost like a trippy lullaby with a punk spirit. The backwards-played drums comprising the intro help to keep it fresh and then I think I hear a digitally delayed snare splayed across the mix and rendered like an animal growling. This would probably be the work of drummer/singer Dean Allen Spunt and the rest of these sounds, I believe, amazingly enough, were made by Randy Randall on his many guitars and in his many personae.

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128 John Talabot – “Destiny” feat. Pional

This was my #1 album of 2012 and I think for me at the time it was just such an adventure in SOUND, with every little blip and bap brought to full, vibrato prominence, but the snares still gutty and punching, no one channel trying to do too much on Talabot’s orchestral IDM interface. The bass also has a way of remaining mellow but sounding really full too, like Talabot knew the exact copious channels to put it on so as to make it the first thing you notice about the production but the last thing you really pin down.

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127 Jlin – “Enigma”

Part of the thrill of this song is the piecemeal way in which it’s assembled — for the first 45 seconds or so it sounds like it could be some one-minute mid-album goof-off interlude, with random, seemingly unrelated, sampled tribal sounds thrown in, with no bass presence at all, let alone actual words, melody or theme. In its full fruition, it plays out as something beautifully twisted like a classic beat from MIA (Jlin is actually the female Jerrilynn Patton), with an even busier, more obtuse sense of rhythm and rendering African musical themes into something that speaks to the streets of Gary, Indiana, Jlin’s hometown.

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126 Green Day – “A Little Boy Named Train”

Green Day just thought they’d throw this little pop etude seventh on their third album within a four month span, the final installment Tre of the extremely broad and inconsistent trifecta they dropped on us late in ’12. Well, it’s catchy, I’ve listened to it a million times and in all my Green Day familiarity through the years I can’t really think of another song by them that’s LIKE it, sort of like a proud resolution to “X-Kid,” in this case the protagonist just an eternally youthful “rebel without a clue” type figure who’s “got no destination” ’cause he’s “a little boy named Train”. It’s even got an awesome, slightly slowed but gratifyingly gunky alternate version on Demolicious that I highly recommend.

 

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