MUSIC

Mitski's New Single "Cop Car" Takes No Prisoners

The queen of cowboys ascends to an even higher echelon.

Mitski's been quiet lately, but no longer.

Over the past few months, the indie star went dark on social media, ended her relentless touring schedule, and gave no hints as to when (or if) her next project would emerge.

With the single "Cop Car," she's burst back onto the airwaves with a vengeance. It sounds like she's been bottling up emotions for months, and now they're forcing their way out in the form of screaming guitars and growling feedback.

The Key

Mitski has actually been performing "Cop Car"at shows for years, but this is its first official release. It's also the last installment from the soundtrack for the horror film The Turning, Floria Sigismondi's adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. So far, the soundtrack has featured Courtney Love, Soccer Mommy, Kali Uchis, Vagabon, Warpaint, girl in red, Kim Gordon, Cherry Glazerr, the Aubreys, and other indie greats.

Soundtrack producer Lawrence Rothman specifically contacted Mitski for the feature. "There is a pinnacle scene where Kate's mind starts to unravel while in her car and we needed a cinematic but grunge influenced song shadowing the scene," he said. "I reached out to Mitski to see if she wanted to get involved as Floria and I had a feeling she would deliver a song that was guitar-based but cinematic. 'Cop Car' went beyond what we imagined and we were ecstatic when she sent it to us!"

"Cop Car" definitely sounds like a mind unraveling. "I will never die," Mitski repeats at the song's climax, before concluding, "I've preemptively blocked all the exits. So I will burn in this movie theater." It's a blistering excavation of trauma or loss or a breakup or some twisted combination of the three.

The Turning and its soundtrack will debut this Friday, January 24th.

www.youtube.com

Congratulations–you've survived 2019.

We've been through haunting commercials, traumatically bad movies, and the fall of a favorite childhood author. But through it all, there's been Spotify, judging our music tastes like a disapproving boomer. And yet, we persisted. In alphabetical order, these are the top 50 musical lifelines of the 2010s. In the top 25 are the likes of BTS, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, and Childish Gambino. Among the bottom 25 are FKA twigs, Tayor Swift, Julien Baker, and Charli XCX. Notably absent is anything by Ed Sheeran or Justin Bieber, because we don't believe bad listening habits should be encouraged. Happy listening in 2020!

Top 50 Songs of the Decade

Top 50 Songs of the Decade open.spotify.com


TOP 25

33 "GOD": Bon Iver

With 22, A Million, Bon Iver shattered expectations and blended innovative electronic arrangements with typically opaque lyrics, albeit this time more about religion and technology rather than snowstorms and forests. "33 'GOD'" is one of its most joyful and reverent moments. "I could go forward in the night / but I better fold my clothes," Vernon sings just before the song explodes into its shimmering chorus, a line that perfectly encapsulates the strangeness of being human while thinking about transcendence.

Bon Iver - 33 "GOD" - Official Lyric Video www.youtube.com


Bloodbuzz Ohio: The National

What happens when your hometown is full of bitter memories? If you're the National's Matt Berninger, you drink to the point of oblivion. But the instrumentals of "Bloodbuzz Ohio"—named after Berninger's home state and, well, an alcoholic buzz—aren't as somber as one might expect, its stadium-sized piano melody driven by intricate, racing guitars; like the malaise of homesickness squared up with an unyielding desire to move forward.

The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Dancing On My Own: Robyn

Seeing your ex with someone new can often behold the same "don't want to look, but can't look away" quality as a gnarly car accident. At least, that's the case for the narrator of Robyn's definitive sad banger, "Dancing On My Own"—and what better medicine for heartbreak than doing just that? The song might be sung from the perspective of being lonely, but truthfully, its listeners are never fully alone; just take it from the New Yorkers who threw a dance party to the song on a subway platform after Robyn's Madison Square Garden show earlier this year. "Dancing On My Own" pines for closure, but in the end, making yourself your own partner—both in life and in the club—is the best remedy for moving on.

Robyn - Dancing On My Own (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Cardi B: Bodak Yellow

Cardi B's breakout hit became so unavoidable and beloved that it's pretty mind-boggling to think that just months before it dropped, she was only a reality TV audience favorite on VH1's Love & Hip Hop. "Bodak Yellow" is boastful and unapologetic, an anthem of bad b*tchery—the kind of song that makes you want to hit the club with your girlfriends and disregard every man in sight. Cardi had long left the stripper's pole behind her, but with "Bodak Yellow," all eyes remained on her.

Cardi B - Bodak Yellow [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO] www.youtube.com


Cranes in the Sky: Solange

The younger Knowles wrote "Cranes in the Sky" after an especially painful breakup with the father of her son. On the centerpiece of her 2016 record A Seat at the Table, Solange delivers a laundry list of coping mechanisms: dancing, spending, sexing, working hard. It's a jazzy, R&B ode to life's inevitable pains, and whichever vices we select in order to ease them.

Solange - Cranes in the Sky (Video) www.youtube.com


Everybody Wants to Love You: Japanese Breakfast

In the dream-pop she makes as Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner wears her emotions on her sleeve. She wrote the first incantation of "Everybody Wants to Love You" with her previous band Birthday Girlz, for a woman who had no clue the song was about her. Years later, it was sped up and extended for Japanese Breakfast's version, a deliriously enamored love anthem that's as intoxicating and thrilling as a new crush.

Japanese Breakfast - Everybody Wants To Love You (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Fake Love: BTS

As Popdust's resident "Only Person Who Listens to Kpop," (Dan) it's important to me to see BTS represented on our Top 50 Best Songs of the Decade list. As our world becomes more and more connected in the age of the Internet, we can no longer pretend that Western media is the only relevant pop culture content. With their incredibly diverse range of hits and a global appeal that transcends language barriers, BTS feels like a once-in-a-generation musical group.

All that being said, I reached out to ARMY (BTS's dedicated fanbase) on Twitter to get a sense of which BTS songs meant the most to them. I really enjoyed reading the range of their responses, as it seems like pretty much every BTS song is someone's favorite, many of them for deeply personal reasons. Out of every BTS song, Fake Love was echoed most frequently.

It's not hard to see why. Fake Love is a musical masterpiece that entirely escapes genre categorization. Structurally superb, the song's solemn, trap-rock-influenced melody effortly flows into both catchy pop refrains and emotional hip hop segments, with a little bit of grunge built in for good measure. The complex sound compliments the deep, mature lyrics, which explore the dissolution of an intense romance wherein a person realizes that they've lost sight of their own identity in order to shape themselves for a love that was never really there. Fake Love is easily one of BTS's darkest songs, making for an emotionally resonant experience that's sure to stick with listeners for decades to come.

BTS (방탄소년단) 'FAKE LOVE' Official MV www.youtube.com


Formation: Beyonce

Beyonce dropped "Formation" the day after Trayvon Martin's 21st birthday. On the surface, the Lemonade standout is a widely accessible party jam, Queen Bey at her boldest. But under its bombastic bass and victorious marching band instrumentals, there's an undeniable spirit of Southern black empowerment, reaching levels of unimaginable success against all odds.

Beyoncé - Formation www.youtube.com


Gold: Chet Faker

Chet Faker's "Gold" is one of the finest offerings on his debut album, Built on Glass. The track's smooth R&B and electronica match his soft-spoken drawl, punctuated by his crisp falsetto, as he croons about being in love with love.

Chet Faker - Gold (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com


I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times): Jamie xx

With his debut solo record In Colour, Jamie xx—one-third of the hushed, stoned indie trio the xx—proved he was no one-trick pony. That message is heard clearest on "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," an irresistible party track featuring rapper Young Thug, Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan, and a sample from '60s acapella group the Persuasions. Altogether, it's a certifiable good time indeed—maybe even too good if you're Rue from Euphoria.

Jamie xx - I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times) ft. Young Thug, Popcaan www.youtube.com


Levitate: Kendrick Lamar

Track seven on Untitled Unmastered, unofficially known as "Levitate," is a stand out Kendrick Lamar track among a long list of contenders, mostly for its opening. The trippy instrumentals and the increasingly chaotic vocals capture a strange, surreal feeling of drifting away from the world. The lyrics are strong, but mostly, nothing will get as high as this song.

untitled 07 | 2014 - 2016 www.youtube.com


Man on Fire: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

The indie folk of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros lives in the American heartland of the past, which we're disillusioned with but nostalgic for at the same time. That includes frontman Alex Ebert, who describes "Man on Fire" as being a release from "all the problems, pain, murder, heartache, shame, and those things I bring up, especially the conflict." He told Artist Direct, "I felt like instead of trying to fix it or work on it within the paradigm of problem-solving, I wanted to throw it all away and just dance in the streets. That's what it's about. It was born from a really intense, defiant, and frustrated place. That's one of the reasons I love that song."

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Man On Fire [Official Video] www.youtube.com


Midnight City: M83 -

Repeating a series of four notes eight times in a row is a method as old as pop music itself, but that didn't stop Anthony Gonzalez—the one man behind M83—from creating one of the most recognizable chorus melodies of the decade.

M83 - Midnight City www.youtube.com


Nights: Frank Ocean

Blond, which seems to exist in twenty more dimensions than the majority of other music, is a master class in the art of building worlds through sound and panning and pure poetry. "Nights" is one of its lush centerpieces, a song about the exhausting and thrilling nature of the nighttime and everything that comes with it; dreams, the subconscious, love, sex, unfiltered emotion, exhaustion. As the song switches from its initial beat to its frenetic guitar interlude and finally breaks down to that too-dreamy, silky-trap outro, you know that Frank has been hacking your ears to transport you somewhere else. The lyrics help, too; when Frank sings, "Wanna see nirvana and I wanna die," you really feel it every time.

Frank Ocean - Nights (Visuals) www.youtube.com


Oblivion: Grimes

Claire Boucher turned her violent street assault and its lingering emotional toll into the defining song of her career. The staccato, arpeggiated bassline of "Oblivion" mimics the persistent, heightened wariness of walking by yourself at night; though the track is largely centered around being alone, the anxieties Grimes sings about are something all of her female listeners can relate to.

Grimes - Oblivion www.youtube.com


Pure Comedy: Father John Misty

"Pure Comedy" is a song that's memorable not so much for musical content but for its message. The melody is straightforward without a lot of elaboration, and the vocals don't make any attempt to show off. It's a song that serves the almost singular purpose of delivering its unambiguous lyrics and using them to dig into the profound and sad absurdity of life. It may not do much else, but it does that as well as any song of the decade.

Father John Misty - Pure Comedy [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com


Run Away With Me: Carly Rae Jepsen

By the time her third album, Emotion, dropped, Carly Rae Jepsen was a known auteur of potently catchy bubblegum pop songs. But the dark side to her breakout "Call Me Maybe" was that it overshadowed much of her work to come, even the chugging, euphoric "Run Away With Me." With it's chant-along chorus, a perfectly utilized saxophone solo, and a globetrotting music video, it's Jepsen at her most fun and most inviting.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me www.youtube.com


Runaway: Kanye West

Say what you want about Kanye West's trajectory post-Life of Pablo, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a truly magnificent achievement. "Runaway" is the bloody, ragged, triumphant beating heart of the album. It begins with those iconic syncopated staccato piano notes and then explodes into a growling bassline, and all together it taps into the deep pain and guilt at the core of the human experience, something Kanye's always been an expert at exposing to the light. When the cello section at the end breaks loose, it's heaven in hell.

Kanye West - Runaway (Video Version) ft. Pusha T www.youtube.com


Silver Spoon (Baepsae): BTS

Whereas many of BTS's songs evade easy genre categorization, Silver Spoon (or Baepsae, which means crow-tit––a Korean term roughly equivalent to calling someone a "try-hard") falls firmly in the realm of hip hop. In that same vein, Silver Spoon is also one of BTS's most politically biting songs.

Serving as an anthem for disenfranchised millennials, Silver Spoon places the tension between younger generations and older generations into stark contrast. The title, Silver Spoon, refers to a popular Korean metaphor for class divides (the same concept plays a large role in Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, which also happens to be one of my favorite movies of the decade). In the song, BTS calls out the hypocrisy of older people acting like millennials don't work hard enough while simultaneously subjecting them to an unfair system with a dearth of opportunities. By wearing the derogatory term "baepsae" like a badge of honor, BTS takes power back from an older generation who would otherwise write younger people off.

With a platform as big as theirs, BTS's political messaging has the potential to reach further than most, and while Silver Spoon specifically speaks to issues in South Korea, its message has obvious parallels all around the world.

BTS (방탄소년단) – Baepsae (뱁새) (Crow Tit/Try-Hard/Silver Spoon) Lyrics [Color Coded_Han_Rom_Eng] www.youtube.com


Someone You Loved: Lewis Capaldi

America's been slow to catch onto Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi, but the 23-year-old's piano-driven anthem topped the UK charts for seven consecutive weeks in 2019. Through his all-too-charming social media presence, he showcases his dry humor and pokes fun at himself and the seeming perfection of successful musicians: "A lot of people say that 'the best songs fall into your lap' and that they're the easiest ones to write and take the shortest amount of time," he told NME. "I wholeheartedly disagree with that. I think my best songs come from me sitting at a piano, bashing my head against a brick wall for hours and hours on end to get one good melody."

Lewis Capaldi - Someone You Loved www.youtube.com


Spring Day: BTS

If I were to recommend K-pop to someone who had never listened to a single non-English-language song before, Spring Day is probably the first song I would play for them. One of BTS's most fascinating talents (and I'd wager a major reason behind their widespread international success) is their unprecedented ability to imbue their music with real, raw emotion that completely breaks through cultural barriers and hits on the core universal sentiments underlying their songs. Spring Day is all about longing for someone who isn't there, and even without translating the gorgeous lyrics, the song fills you with the melancholy sensation of nostalgia. It's almost impossible to listen to Spring Day without missing someone or something from your past.

Couple this with one of BTS's most imagery-dense music videos, full of references to Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer and Ursula K. Le Guin's false-utopian short story, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," and Spring Day plays out like an almost literary endeavor. For a group renowned for their ability to tear up a dance floor and hype up an audience, a deeply sentimental piece like Spring Day stands as testament to BTS's vast range of talents.

BTS (방탄소년단) '봄날 (Spring Day)' Official MV www.youtube.com


Take Me to Church: Hozier

In 2014 you could hardly leave the house without hearing someone butchering the lyrics to "Take Me to Church," Hozier's infectious folk-rock break out single. Many interpret the song as a critique of organized religion interfering in people's personal lives, particularly their sex lives. As such, the song was as divisive as it was wildly popular. Hozier's velvet voice and gospel-inspired songwriting prowess came together to create a song that was markedly more substantive and interesting than most other hits from 2014.

Hozier - Take Me To Church (Official Video) www.youtube.com


This is America: Childish Gambino

When "This is America" dropped, it came at a moment of breathless rage and fear in America. With its themes of gun violence and racial discrimination, it lit up like a match thrown on gasoline—but it had staying power because of its sonic juxtapositions of African folk-pop against brooding trap, and that breathtaking chorus line. When Glover says, "This is America," you're forced to wonder exactly whose America he's talking about, and that was always the point.

Childish Gambino - This Is America (Official Video) www.youtube.com


Your Best American Girl: Mitski

"Your Best American Girl" starts soft, but then explodes into a forest fire of electric guitar. When Mitski sings the iconic lyrics, "Your mother wouldn't approve of how my mother raised me / but I do / I finally do / and you're an all American boy, guess I couldn't help try to be your best American girl," she expressed a delicate balance of emotions: rage mixed with self-love, freedom combined with regret. The result is an unforgettable, cathartic love letter to music and solidarity.

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video) www.youtube.com



BOTTOM 25

A More Perfect Union: Titus Andronicus

In his famed Lyceum Address, Abraham Lincoln told the United States: "As a nation of free men, we will live forever, or die by suicide." These words are uttered at the beginning of "A More Perfect Union," the opener to punk rockers Titus Andronicus' cult favorite The Monitor. Chock-full of New England references both historical and modern, it teeters the line between that invincibility and impermanence. But as the roaring second half marches on, it seems to rejoice in that at least we are free either way.

Cellophane: FKA twigs

Twigs has built a delicate and impressive body of work over the years, but few songs had the emotional resonance and total desperation of "Cellophane," an impossibly fragile breakup song for the ages off 2019's Magdalene. Its gorgeous video was a masterpiece of dance, endurance, and surrealist art, and socially, it's everything a cathartic cry into the void should be and more.

Despacito: Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee (NOT Justin Bieber)

Before Justin Bieber ever tarnished this song, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee had a globally viral hit that shone thanks to its magnetic, compulsively danceable beat and tune. "Despacito" is a tightly wound pop-reggaeton hybrid, one that checked every box and went further, becoming an irresistible earworm that will have us dancing for a long time to come.

Everything Is Embarrassing: Sky Ferreira

This Sky Ferreira track is utterly infectious, the kind of tune that gets in your bloodstream and makes you want to dance and cry at the same time. Written by Blood Orange's Dev Hynes, it's the perfect bridge between feeling everything and nothing, between taking things seriously and laughing at the absurdity of it all. When the chorus kicks in, you feel ecstatic despite the eye-rolls implicit in Ferreira's lyrics, then the bridge takes the song to an entirely new level.

Green Light: Lorde

Lorde's Melodrama was a tribute to parties, love, and heartbreak, and its opener set the tone for the entire cycle. "Green Light" starts out with restraint, but once Lorde starts singing about hoping her ex gets bitten by a great white shark as her voice plays in two octaves, you know she's not messing around. This unconventional and brilliant pop song is an open door into Lorde's neon dreamworld, a party invitation that's impossible to refuse.

How Great: Chance the Rapper

Chance has made an indelible mark on the music industry since releasing his mixtape 10 Day independently as a teenager. Since then, he's continued to push the boundaries of R&B and rap, perhaps most notably on his magnum opus Coloring Book, which he also released independently in 2016. One of the best, and most political, offerings off this album is "How Great," Chance's take on the classic gospel song "How Great Is Our God." Here, Chance combines biblical imagery with imagery from the technological age, creating a stirring juxtaposition between the holy and the seemingly mundane. The lyrics are thematically dense and brilliant, and the verses leave no doubt that there's no other MC in the game with flow like Chance the Rapper.

I Love It: Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX

This Charli XCX-penned bop contains so much joy and rage and energy, it's impossible not to dance along. A defining presence at every party of 2012 (and still a force to be reckoned with), it's the ultimate finally-getting-over-your-breakup song. Lyrically, it's an aggressive and punk-headed evisceration of bad memories, over a beat that's undeniably infectious.

Motion Sickness: Phoebe Bridgers

In early 2019, the New York Times published a report in which multiple women accused songwriter/producer Ryan Adams of sexual coercion. One of these women was then-up-and-comer Phoebe Bridgers, whose folksy single "Motion Sickness"—released almost two years prior—was rumored, and later confirmed, to be about Adams. "I hate you for what you did / And I miss you like a little kid," go her opening lines, as her anger unfolds. In that couplet, Bridgers perfectly summarizes the dichotomy of processing abuse at the hands of a confidant, a mentor, and lover all in one.

New Romantics: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift built her country-pop crossover empire off teen heartbreak and the ill-fated tribulations of high school romance. But by "New Romantics," a bonus track from her full pop-pivot 1989, she ushered in a fresh generation of lovers-to-be. She cleverly ties in her adolescent anguish—"honey, life is just a classroom"—before launching into a shimmering chorus that exudes the joyful rush of youth.

Old Town Road: Lil Nas X

When "Old Town Road" was released in December of last year, it made Lil Nas X a household name almost overnight. The blend of country themes and sound with elements of trap music made the song both memorable and controversial—with contention over whether it belonged on country music charts, and accusations that the distinctions was tied to racial animus in the country music industry. The controversy may have contributed to the song's record-breaking streaming and the fact that everyone in the world now knows the lyrics.

Pa'lante: Hurray For the Riff Raff

Few songs manage to pack as much power as "Pa'lante," a Spanish word that can be loosely translated to "go onward" or "go for it." The song begins as a monologue about having to go to work and wanting to fall in love and prove our worth—all things we're told we have to want—then spirals into suicidal ideation about feeling colonized and ignorant and helpless—and then grows into a cry of revolution and solidarity with all people who have been blinded by the selfishness of capitalism, which tells us that we have to "be something" at the expense of all others.

Pompeii: Bastille

"Pompeii" was the British band's breakout hit and one of the most popular songs of 2013. A deep chant backs frontman Dan Smith's smooth tone as he sings about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. "'Pompeii' is actually an imagined conversation between two charred corpses reflecting on the city," Smith told The Sun. The famous disaster was the perfect allegory for pent up emotions. "It is essentially about fear of stasis and boredom," he added. "Being quite a shy, self-conscious person, I was afraid my life might get stuck."

Queen: Perfume Genius

Perfume Genius's raw, ecstatic "Queen" is an anthem and a howl, a cry of brokenness and triumph. When Mike Hadreas sings "No family is safe / when I sashay," his voice (along with a yowling synth and threatening vocal punctuations) tell a story of decades of queer and trans oppression and resilience. But beyond its identity politics, "Queen" is also a magnificent song, innovatively orchestrated and expansive and ragged as human emotion itself.

Rejoice: Julien Baker

In 2015, Julien Baker quietly released her sparse, dimly lit debut album, Sprained Ankle. It gathered cult status for its searing observations about sadness, religion, death, and queerness, and it didn't hurt that Baker knew her way around a Telecaster and a pedalboard. "Rejoice" might be the album's most powerful track—it starts soft and downtrodden, and by the time Baker is screaming about God over reverb-heavy loops, you feel like you're in a church in the middle of the wilderness.

River: Leon Bridges

Leon Bridges' 2015 song, "River," may be a modern hit, but its sound is pure old school soul and R&B. The video for the song makes it clear that Bridges wrote the song with the intention of celebrating the past and future of soul music, as many of the images portray the 2015 Baltimore uprising that shone a light on the racism still built into the structure of America. "I want this video to be a message of light. I believe it has the power to change and heal those that are hurting," Bridges told NPR. In a fraught moment in history, "River" reminded us of the power of catharsis through music.

The Bug Collector: Haley Heynderickx

Haley Heyndericx's ethereal debut album I Need to Start a Garden is full of shattering observations about simple, everyday events, and no song exemplifies this like "The Bug Collector," which finds metaphors for Catholic guilt in the many-legged creatures that invade the narrator's bathtub and bedroom. The song layers delicate fingerpicking over foggy French horn and effortlessly transports the listener to a place outside of time.

The greatest: Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey may have found viral fame and loathing thanks to "Video Games," but she's disproven every naysayer by consistently producing excellent, electrifying and challenging work. Norman F**king Rockwell's "The greatest"—a piano ballad cut through with wailing guitars, and an elegy about aging, global decay, and of course, lost love—may be her greatest work yet.

The Morning: The Weeknd

After nearly 10 years, Abel Tesfaye still stands as one of the defining influences of the modern R&B soundscape. The Weeknd has forever revolutionized the aesthetic of modern-day R&B, and it all began in 2010 with a little song called "The Morning." It was the apex of Tesfaye's mystique. His haunting falsetto vocals, his drug-fueled braggadocio, emotional promiscuity, and the minimalist production all culminated into something breathtakingly unique. For the first time in R&B, an awkward loner could become a sex icon in his own way. "I was everything an R&B singer wasn't," Tesfaye said in his first-ever cover story with Rolling Stone. House of Balloons shifted the tide of what was possible in R&B; now, The Weeknd's influence is inescapable. "I'm not gonna say any names, but just listen to the radio," the singer said. "Every song is House of Balloons 2.0."

The Suburbs: Arcade Fire

To be honest, 2017's Everything Now was one of the most disappointing albums in recent memory. Arcade Fire is all about massive statements on culture, love, and the human condition, but Everything Now presented all of the flair without any of the substance. In retrospect, it made us realize how hard it is to do what they do. The coming of age tale of "The Suburbs" is one of the band's most heart-wrenching musical narratives, with the metaphorical lyrics still studied under a microscope to this day by music snobs. The yearning for home when you leave and then the disillusion that follows when you return are palpable on "The Suburbs" and creates for a timeless anthem for the Millennial experience.

This Feeling: Alabama Shakes

Sometimes in the midst of life's chaos, you hit moments of stillness where you know it's going to be okay. "This Feeling" might be about these moments, and the fragility and importance of these all-too-ephemeral feelings. Emotions can change with the weather and anything can change on a dime, Brittany Howard seems to be saying, but just for now, we know that things are gonna be alright.

Uptown Funk: Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars

"Uptown Funk" is the 2014 hit single by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars. The appropriately funky baseline and the high energy vocals make for a contagious energy that more or less guarantees that this song will play at every wedding for the foreseeable future. Coupled with the absurdly self-aggrandizing lyrics—like a contemporary "I'm too Sexy"—it's not hard to see why this song has gotten so much play. So much play that a lot of people would rather never hear it again…

Vroom Vroom: Charli XCX

If there's one thing Charli XCX loves as much as partying, it's cars. But before she ran too fast like a white Mercedes or fantasized about a Porsche, she just wanted to hang with people who could keep up with her. So goes the title track from the pop experimentalist's Vroom Vroom EP, a song that became the national anthem of Charli Land despite gaining little traction outside of her core fanbase. From it's instantly-recognizable synth intro to its infinitely-quotable "Beep beep! Let's ride," with "Vroom Vroom," risking a speeding ticket has never sounded so enticing.

We Bros: WU LYF

Manchester quartet WU LYF were short-lived and hid in a veil of mystery, having disclosed little information to the press during their four active years. "We Bros," from their sole LP Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, perfectly encapsulates what's been missing from the music scene since they called it quits. A six-minute anticapitalist indie rock odyssey, it embodies a sense of freedom, joining forces, and just singing.

You're Not Good Enough - Blood Orange

The immensely talented polymath Dev Hynes has an uncanny knack for capturing the minute intricacies of human turmoil. He is rarely vindictive of those who have wronged him, instead choosing to remain caustic. "I never was in love, you know that you were never good enough," he says calmly over a dark, funky instrumental. "It's always the self-identified nice guys who pack the cruelest, most vindictive punches," wrote Pitchfork. On "You're Not Good Enough," Dev Hynes' matter-of-fact delivery revolutionized the way emotion was conveyed in R&B. Hynes is a master of tactically communicating awkward in-between moments of pain. You're not really pissed anymore, nor have you forgiven those who wronged you for their transgressions, but you're still just kinda...bitter. Hynes reassures us that those feelings are genuine and important to dissect, especially within the context of LGBTQ culture.

Your Deep Rest: The Hotelier

Emo revivalists the Hotelier cut right to the chase with their second album Home, Like Noplace is There, an admittedly dark record. Its high point "Your Deep Rest" (which, when said out loud, sounds quite a bit like "you're depressed") centers on the guilt and shame that ensue after a close friend's suicide, so much so that the song's narrator skips the funeral completely. It's a gutting retrospective, but one that reminds us to look out for those who are still here.

End-of-decade ranking lists are inherently flawed, dependent on a list of arbitrary criteria that's largely influenced by the overculture's equally arbitrary metrics of quality—yet we're making one anyway.

Despite their issues, end-of-decade lists and rankings are ways for us all to reflect on the sound and media we've consumed over the past ten years. The past decade saw streaming services, social media, and the widespread dissemination of DIY production completely re-terraform music, opening up space for post-genre innovation and new forms of political protest music.

While so many artists put out incredible work this decade, four in particular stood out to us at Popdust due to the quality of their music, their personas, and their cultural resonance. Here are our top artists of the 2010s.

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean has received ample love from end-of-decade lists so far, but all of it is deserved. The 2010s were defined by Ocean's music, from 2011's earworm "Thinkin Bout You" to 2012's highly acclaimed Channel Orange. He made history with his legendary decision to release Blond independently just a day after releasing Endless and finishing his contract with Def Jam. It might be a stretch to say that his decision to break from the label could symbolize a larger global shift towards dissatisfaction with major corporations and big money, but regardless, his act of defiance made Blond's expansive generosity and creativity that much more influential.

Thinkin Bout You www.youtube.com

Blond twines infinite musical genres and emotional threads into one entity. It's gloomy and hypnotic, nostalgic and futuristic. It sounds effortless despite its constantly shifting rhythms and unpredictable flows, but it's incredibly complicated and intentionally made. On "Nikes" and "Solo (Reprise)," Ocean makes powerful references to Trayvon Martin, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement, arguably one of the most important movements of the past decades. The album was also praised for helping to redefine queerness in pop music, and, in a huge decade for LGBTQ+ people, Ocean was at the center of that shift.

But Blond's political undertones take a backseat to its artistry. In the final song, "Futura Free," Mikey Alfred asks, "How far is a light year?" A light year is ~9.4x1012 kilometers, and "Futura Free" is exactly nine minutes and four seconds long.

Frank Ocean - Futura Free www.youtube.com

Mitski

Mitski Miyawaki started out as a classical musician, but 2014's Bury Me at Makeout Creek was a raw, sputtering, furious melding of abandon, fury, and poetic refractions of young-adult angst. Then 2016's Puberty 2 addressed the painful experience that is realizing growing up is a never-ending process, particularly in an America that endlessly silences and pigeonholes women of color. 2018's Be the Cowboy was a dizzying reflection on fame, loneliness, and creative practice, a primal scream at the end of a painful metamorphosis.

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Mitski's music is endlessly giving, the sort that takes on different shapes depending on when you listen to it and what you're listening to. She throws the grainy psychedelic qualities reminiscent of Jim Morrison over dark beats and places wailing guitars beneath searing lyrics. Her concerts and persona have become loci of redemptive rage and solidarity.

The quality of music and performance alone isn't enough to define an artist as one of the top three musicians of the decade, so although she would probably hate this entire statement, Mitski also stands out because she symbolizes an entire new genre of indie-alternative musicians (ranging from Angel Olsen to Phoebe Bridgers to Vagabon) who are redefining and exploding what it means to be a "woman in music." In the 2010s, which saw the rise of the #MeToo movement and intersectional feminism and nonbinary identities (things that had always existed, but were finally starting to break into the mainstream), Mitski's music—which excavates trauma and strength, self-love and self-hate, womanhood and personhood on the whole—encapsulated and shattered ideas about what an artist could be.

Mitski - Townie (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Bon Iver

Bon Iver released his bleary folk masterpiece For Emma, Forever Ago in 2007, and he took all our breath away with his expansive self-titled sophomore album (which had the windy, breathtakingly humble "Holocene" as its crown jewel). But his stylistic innovations really took off with 2016's 22, A Million, a.k.a. "the BULLSH*T numbers album," as my editor says. 22, A Million was deeply weird, chaotic, unpredictable, and highly refined, laden with musings on gods and nature and time that seemed as abstract as the Internet and everyday life can feel.

Bon Iver - "Holocene" (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Throughout his entire career, Bon Iver has broken boundaries with his lyrics, which express emotions despite refusing exact translations (or maybe because they subvert the trappings of language, tapping into something more primal). He uses words as instruments, playing with their shapes and cadences in a way that no other artist has been able to emulate.

As a cultural symbol, Bon Iver is as much meme as man. Known initially for his sleepy snowbound folk, he transitioned to autotuned features on Kanye West songs and later broke boundaries in electronic music and the multi-genre sphere. Though 2019's i,i lacked the raw creativity of 22, A Million, it felt richer and warmer than ever before, an artist's return to the home he had to leave to rediscover.

Bon Iver: Full Concert | NPR MUSIC FRONT ROWwww.youtube.com

On a larger scale, Bon Iver's music and persona might symbolize a large segment of musicians who, after initially being relegated to the folk genre (or another single sound), began to experiment with genres and themes, breaking them down and showing that close-minded rules about sound, lyricism, and reality itself simply did not have to apply. In the 2010s, genre broke down, identity politics came up, we started telling stories through memes and emojis, and Bon Iver opened our minds to universes and colors and sounds we'd never seen before.

Kendrick Lamar

Between 2012's Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, and 2017's DAMN., Kendrick Lamar has created an exhaustive collection of work that set new standards for hip-hop and music itself. Kendrick's work is rigorous and liberated, egoistic and self-critical. It's the finest modern protest music we have today. A master storyteller, Kendrick is frequently referred to as the best rapper alive, and though his lyrics bridge the gap between raw, confessional emo rap and guilt and power and glory, it's his flow that makes him truly unparalleled.

Kendrick Lamar - Alright www.youtube.com

During the 2010s, Kendrick Lamar became culturally omnipotent, snagging a Pulitzer, headlining Coachella, and pulling together the Black Panther companion album, contributing to the film's massive and long-lasting resonance. In a decade arguably defined by hip hop, Kendrick was constantly pushing the boundaries of what the genre could be. He'll probably be remembered in the same way we recall Bob Dylan today—the voice of a revolution we didn't know we were in the midst of, though in hindsight, we've been singing along this whole time.

Beyoncé - Freedom (ft. Kendrick Lamar) www.youtube.com


Runners-Up: Rihanna, Drake, Lana Del Rey, Beyoncé, Kanye West

MUSIC

Pitchfork's Top 200 Songs of the 2010s Actually Gave Me Hope

Kendrick Lamar tops Pitchfork's pleasantly surprising list of the top 200 songs of the 2010s.

I dipped into Pitchfork's list of the top songs of the 2010s tentatively, not knowing what to expect.

Considering the sheer amount of music released in the past decade, there's simply no way one could ever hope to listen to it all, let alone compare it. Also, music rankings are inherently subjective, entirely reliant on the opinions of those curating the list and their respective definitions of what makes "great" art.

Don't get me wrong—the Pitchfork list has issues. First off, it essentially consists of popular American music. You won't find too many deep cuts here, nor many country, K-pop, classical, or non-English-language tracks. If you're someone who "dislikes pop," you might as well leave. Also, some of the blurbs are very odd. "Hotline Bling" is described as a "human centipede of modern music," which is a unique metaphor—I'll give them that—and apparently Lorde "[dissects] love like it's a frog in science class." Justin Bieber's "Sorry" is somehow painted as a track that asks for redemption in an era of #BlackLivesMatter protests. A lot of the writing is beautiful, though, and we get phrases like, "Pop songs, trends, and life itself are a constant cycle of death and rebirth" (in reference to Ariel Pink) to balance out the other stuff.

In terms of the song choices, I like and respect Grimes, but I'm not sure "Oblivion" deserves its number two slot. There are countless glaring omissions, with innovators like Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Donald Glover, and Sufjan Stevens notably absent (though Gaga and Stevens appeared on Pitchfork's equally solid best albums of the 2010s list). Also, "The Louvre" is objectively not the best song on Melodrama.

Even so, scrolling through the list made me remember that a lot of fantastic music has been released this decade, and a lot of creative visionaries have come out of the woodwork, selectively utilizing new technologies to create ambitious works of art. Plus, in contrast to the vast majority of best-songs-of-all-time lists, a lot of these songs are by women and people of color. Yes, there's still inequality in the music industry, but music has never been more diverse, both sonically and demographically.

The list is evidence that the concept of listening to one genre or disliking music just because it's pop has been steadily dying over the past decade. In today's world, pop hits like Carly Rae Jepsen's "Run Away With Me" and Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" exist comfortably next to indie powerhouse ballads like Mitski's "Your Best American Girl" and ANOHNI's "Drone Bomb Me," and rap and ambient and metal all appear on the same playlists. The kind of pretentiousness that discredited pop music in the past is largely disappearing, and in its own respect, pop is getting more daring, more willing to experiment and pull from other genres.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me www.youtube.com

Mitski - Your Best American Girl (Official Video) www.youtube.com

You could analyze the list forever on this kind of macroscopic level, but music is never only collective or political; it always has a microscopic, personal dimension. Personally, as I scrolled through the list from the bottom to the top, I began to feel something that I don't usually feel while on the Internet. The list was strangely heartwarming. It brought back good memories. Many of the songs on it are extremely special to me, intertwined with specific places, people, and emotions.

For example, Sampha's breathtaking ballad "No One Knows Me (Like the Piano)" took me right back to a time I got lost on a bus in Queens and ended up listening to that song as a woman delivered a sermon from the seat across me while rain poured down around us. The Kanye selections are particularly wrenching; "Runaway" is eternally powerful, "Ultralight Beam" sparks several memories immediately—driving over a bridge under a purple sunset, or another time, astronomically high in the woods, blasting the song from speakers and clinging to every note. "Queen" by Perfume Genius made my jaw drop the first time I heard it. Listening to "Mary" by Big Thief is always a religious experience. SZA, Tyler the Creator, the National, Vampire Weekend, Chance the Rapper—they've all held special places in my heart and life over the years. They're as real and significant to me as any friend, and I doubt I'm alone in that.

Perfume Genius - 'Queen' (Official Video) www.youtube.com

Reading through the list made me remember that while the world may be incredibly chaotic and painful to exist in, there's so much good music to soundtrack our journey through this brief and absurd life. The 2010's gave us revolutionary opuses like Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. and "Pa'lante" by Hurray for the Riff Raff. It gave us Frank Ocean's mystical, effervescent Blond, which I must give thanks for roughly once per week. It gave us Katy Perry's early exquisite pop and Courtney Barnett's dry ramblings and the soft electricity of Yaeji, whose "Drink I'm Sippin On" soundtracked so many of my night walks around the city.

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Pa'lante (Official Video) www.youtube.com

It gave us ample drama and good stories, too—there was the gleeful spite of "thank u, next," and the thrill of watching Cardi B rise with "Bodak Yellow," Miley's chaotic metamorphosis and Solange's ascendance. The 2010s took David Bowie and Lil Peep. It gave us unforgettable images, Bon Iver and his mythological cabin and FKA Twigs' surrealist masterpiece "Cellophane," images that connected to us on personal levels and bind us together across space and time.

FKA twigs - Cellophane www.youtube.com

I think that the best kind of music is taps into something much bigger than us, like a collective unconscious, something that extends way beyond the reach of one person. In order to make it, and to make any kind of art that can reach others on a profound level, you have to let go of the limitations of your singular self. That's what so many of these songs do—they tell individual stories, but they also channel something greater, and bring us together on a higher plane.

In many ways, I suspect that the 2020s will be even more full of change and tumult than the 2010s were. But I have complete faith that, when 2029 rolls around, there will be another Pitchfork list of songs that tap into the deepest emotions and most powerful connections we have. And maybe sometimes, the songs that help us personally are what give us the strength to engage with the world on a larger scale and speak truth to power. Maybe our greatest songs are the ones that, like Kendrick Lamar's "Alright," give us the strength to go on.

Kendrick Lamar - Alright www.youtube.com


MUSIC

Angel Olsen's "All Mirrors" Is a Summoning and an Exorcism

Olsen's newest album takes the spiritual, introspective lyricism of her early work and blends them with the energy of her newer, 60s-influenced style.


In the myth of Hades and Persephone, the god of the underworld lures Demeter's daughter down into his subterranean kingdom, stealing her away from her mother and the world of the living.

She winds up spending half of her life aboveground, and the other half below.

On her new album All Mirrors, Angel Olsen plays both Hades and Persephone, entertaining her darker sides and lighting candles within them, entering the labyrinth, and finding her own way out of it. What results is an epic about transformation, one that ultimately offers up hints of release.

It seems that Olsen intended for the album to be a sort of healing force. When a fan tweeted, "F*ck me up QUEEN," in response, Olsen replied, "I'm trying to unf*ck some sh*t. Stay tuned."

If you've followed her career, Olsen has been trying to unf*ck things for a while, though her particular brand of healing has never meant ignoring reality. (One of her most shattering songs of her early folk days was "Unf*cktheworld," after all). But after growing tired of comparisons that painted her as nothing more than a mournful, lost folk singer, she leapt towards the indie pop sphere with 2016's MY WOMAN, abandoning her more introspective, transcendental lyricism and mournful finger-picking patterns for synths, electric guitar, and sweeping, poppier choruses.

Twitter.com

All Mirrors feels like a combination of the abstract, spiritually charged refinement of her early work, and the ambition and energy of My Woman. What sets this album apart from most of Olsen's other work is its heavy reliance on string arrangements, which provide the album with a more austere, almost 1950s-style kind of refinement, though 1970s psychedelia is also a clear influence. Some reviewers have complained that the complex, dreamy arrangements muddle the album's overall impact, but in a way, the album itself is about feeling lost and muddled and finding clarity within those feelings; the arrangements work to put that feeling into sound.

The album opens with the ominous "Lark," a slow burner that feels like a summoning. It pulls the listener straight into the rabbit hole, quickly devolving into a nightmarish vortex of slanted strings and warped synths. "Tell me I was the one / you'd always be losing," she sings, vocals processed through her usual layers of vintage-style overdrive. "Dream on," she repeats, as the song builds up to its climax, which is a brew of Led Zeppelin's harmonics and Mitski's experimental rock.

Across the board, the lyrics on All Mirrors are abstract, frequently bending time and tense, sometimes making it difficult to draw clear, immediate meanings from them. For example, the title track, "All Mirrors," contains the confounding line "all mirrors are erasing." It's ostensibly a song about the passage of time, but it could be about so much more—perspective, delusion, the way memory refracts and splinters when examined retroactively.

Songs like "Spring" find Olsen seeking release from confusion, though even on this relatively simple track, she can't resist a few tidal waves of synths. Similarly, "What It Is" places staccato cello hits and frenetic violins over a pop chord progression, but it never shakes off the layer of dreamy mistiness that surrounds the whole album.

The Cut

In an era where it's hard to separate music from politics and artists from their art, All Mirrors feels remarkably detached, lost in a dimension of its own. But the confusion that defines this album could, in its own way, emblematize the confusion and lostness that defines so much of life in the modern world. It seems to be about the very obscurity that inspires us to leap to extreme conclusions if only to avoid the hazy darknesses of unanswerable questions and an unknowable future.

This confusion doesn't mean that Olsen isn't a powerful presence. In Allison P. Davis's lightly sardonic and mostly brilliant profile, the artist seems comfortable with her own contradictions, if slightly annoyed by them. She lives in a house full of incense and hidden crystals, but smokes cigarettes and downs margaritas; she goes on runs through cemeteries and points out morbid local haunts with a smile.

Near the end of the article, she starts talking about love, saying first that at one point, she was sure she wanted to live alone with cats. Then she wondered if she was gay or if she just hated men, then wondered if she'll get married and have kids, then decided she'd just have a kid by herself.

"I'm trying to imagine when I have a partner one day — whoever that partner shall be that's strong enough to be around me," she says. "Will I want them in my house? You know, with all my stuff in the places that I like them? With their weird dude sh*t?" It's refreshing to hear a woman wonder if her partner will be strong enough for her and her world, instead of wondering if she'll be able to temper herself enough to become palatable to someone else.

In a world that tends to glorify the idea that we need to have set viewpoints, and that glorifies long-lasting and all-consuming love, Olsen's views on both subjects are a welcome change.

Brooklyn Vegan

By the final song, "Chance," Olsen seems to have reached a form of rest. If the demons haven't been completely excised, then they've been tempered. Placing Olsen's gorgeous vocals over arpeggiation that could've been pulled straight from a Roy Orbison track, "Chance" feels like the kind of song that could soundtrack nostalgic, slow-motion footage of a bygone love affair in any given movie flashback.

"Worst feeling I've ever had is gone. I know how it all comes back, I know too well," she sings. "I'm not looking for the answer / or anything that lasts. I just want to see some beauty / try and understand… It's hard to say forever, love," she sings. "Forever's just so far. Why don't you just say you're with me now / for all of your heart?" Those lyrics are a kind of olive branch, bearing the realization that while change may be the only certainty in life, at least we have brief moments of light—and music to follow us through the shifting seasons, into the darkness and back out again.

MUSIC

Pop Stars Unite for Reproductive Rights: Lizzo, Billie Eilish, and Lady Gaga Protest Abortion Bans

Nearly 140 musicians have joined a campaign in support of Planned Parenthood.

Some of pop's brightest stars have come together in support of a new Planned Parenthood initiative called "Bans Off My Body."

Nearly 140 musicians have pledged to support the reproductive rights organization, including Kacey Musgraves, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, Haley Kiyoko, Miley Cyrus, Bon Iver, and Nine Inch Nails. Other luminaries on the list include The 1975, Carole King, Mitski, Maggie Rogers, Megan Thee Stallion, Kim Gordon, Halsey, Princess Nokia, Vic Mensa, Troye Sivan, and many more.

Some of these artists have spoken out about reproductive justice before, such as the 1975's Matty Healy, who delivered a tirade about the topic at a concert in May. "The reason I'm so angry is because I don't believe [the abortion ban] is about the preservation of life, I believe it's about the controlling of women," he said.

Bon Iver also has an organization called 2ABillion, which supports gender equality (we love a feminist dude). And of course, Halsey, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, and many of these artists have made significant contributions to feminism in their own ways, speaking out about assault, body positivity, and more. Ariana Grande donated $250,000 in proceeds from a June show to Planned Parenthood, and hopefully, more artists will follow suit.

Noticeably absent from the list is Taylor Swift, whose newly liberal persona and love of LGBTQ+ rights wasn't enough to get her to join the list. (To be fair, lots of other famous artists didn't appear, like Lana Del Rey and Cardi B, both of whom have become notoriously political). Still, in the case of something this urgent, silence is its own kind of statement.

Following the announcement of the "Band Together, Bans Off" initiative, some of the featured artists took to social media to raise awareness about the message.

Billie Eilish—whose newest album just became this year's most streamed on Spotify—said, "I'm proud to be standing up for Planned Parenthood as they fight for fair and equal access to reproductive rights. We cannot live freely and more fully in the world when our basic right to access the reproductive health care we need is under attack. Every person deserves the right to control their body, their life, and their future."

According to Planned Parenthood's website, "Musicians across the country are standing in solidarity with Planned Parenthood….they're saying access to sexual and reproductive health care is about the same type of freedom that allows them to create music and speak their truth—because no one is free unless they control their own body." It seems that, no matter what kind of music or art these musicians create, reproductive justice is something that they all can agree on.

Why is reproductive freedom such a popular consensus among musicians? It might have something to do with the act of creating art itself. "Music is storytelling," said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood's acting president/CEO. "If you go back to the origins of movements for equality and freedom, and the very rights that control our bodies, it starts with telling stories about your own experience and then defying people [who] judge you."

billboard.com

Planned Parenthood's new campaign is intended to raise awareness and spread information about their mission. They hope to garner 500,000 signatures on their online petition by January 20, 2020, which is the 47th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that cemented a woman's right to choose in American legislature.

The campaign comes at a critical time, due to harsh new policies in states like Alabama, Arkansas, and Georgia. Right now, the ACLU is currently fighting Missouri's Unborn Act, which would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, even in cases of rape and incest. Just this week, Planned Parenthood announced its decision to abscond from Title X, meaning it will no longer be receiving federal funding. Previously, the organization was given about $60 million per year in federal funding, which enabled them to perform 1.5 million abortions for low-income people in need of reproductive care.

Of course, this campaign has garnered outrage from Catholic and conservative publications. While it is fair to say that not all women who undergo abortions want to get them, the truth is that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetimes—meaning that you probably know many people who have had one. If these strict and drastic laws continue to gain traction, more people will be forced to undergo dangerous, covert abortions when they could have received safe, free care.

Sign the Planned Parenthood petition here.