Headphone Nation’s 100 Favorite Songs Of The Decade (So Far): 2010-2014

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Am I an idiot for thinking that I can only pick 100 songs to share with y’all and not feel guilty about all the other music that I’m leaving out? Is this list completely bias? Am I brain-dead from trying to write about why I love every single song on this list?

The answer is yes.

Reminder: this is a list of MY FAVORITE songs of the decade, not THE GREATEST songs of the decade. There is a key difference. Same rules apply to this list as they did for my favorite albums of the decade so far.

Also make sure to check out the spotify playlist with all these songs at the end of this list.

Alright, let’s begin.

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One Sentence Reviews Of Headphone Nation’s 40 Favorite Albums Of The Decade (So Far): 2010 – 2014

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Congratulations – you made it halfway through the decade. How does it feel? Did you come up with a good nickname for this decade yet? Is it as catchy as “The Noughties”? What were the highlights?

It’s easy to get caught up looking back at a particular year (or years) and try to pick out the few highlights that defined the year out of all the countless events. For any pop culture publication, it’s a cheap, bias way to get more hits, and it usually doesn’t do the year justice to what it was actually like.

But hey, we all love to make these lists, and we all love to read these lists.

One of the ways to define a decade is by the most popular (i.e. the easiest to define) musical trends of the time: the 60s were the age of Psychedelia, the 70s saw the height of Big Hair Music (heavy rock and disco), the 80s were the dawn of Indie and MTV, the 90s the mass takeover of Pop music (Grunge-Pop, Britpop, Rap-Pop, Noise-Pop, Trip-Pop, Boy Band-Pop, Riot Grrrl-Pop, it goes on), and the last decade saw the boom of the streaming revolution that we’re still in the middle of. Obviously there were more to these decades than those broad themes, but it gets the job done.

So what is the trend that will define this decade? Is this the age of Doomsday Disco (EDM, Reflektor), Mumblecore (what much of “Indie Rock” has become), or Black Stadium Rock (Kanye West and the realization of his Thriller-sized ego)? Or will we just clump together all this music, much of it angry and noisy, and call it “Great Recession Music”?

It’s too early to tell – we’re only halfway through this decade. There’s no telling to what we’ll be listening to within the next five years and what albums will come to define this decade. So to try and find any sort of pattern in the beginning of 2015 is challenging and probably not necessary.

But like I said, we all love these lists – so let’s have a little fun.

Below is a list of my 40 favorite albums released between 2010 and 2014 and the albums that have defined this decade for me so far. I tried to make things more interesting by describing each album using only one sentence. Of course you cannot properly sum up an entire album in one sentence – but it’s fun to try to anyways!

Please note – this is NOT a list of the GREATEST albums of the decade. This is just a list of my personal favorites, and I hope I introduce you to some great albums that you might have missed in this decade. If this were a GREATEST list, then there would be some albums that I wouldn’t have omitted and some that I would have taken off. For example, Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 good kid, m.A.A.d city is without a doubt one of the best quality albums of the decade, but I have no personal attachment to it – I just like it because it’s good.

There are also lots of albums that I’ve heard are great but I’ve never sat down with and listened to all the way through (Frank Ocean, Grimes, Tame Impala, etc). When I do my inevitable End-Of-Decade list at the end of 2019, some of those albums might appear after I listen to them more.

Also, some of these albums on this list aren’t necessarily “good”, but there’s something about them that I absolutely love or can relate to. Maybe it’s because it’s from a favorite artist, or maybe I have a strong association with that album and where I first heard it or who/what it reminds me of. No matter the reason, these are the albums that I loved the most in this decade so far.

And yes, there’s a good chance that I left out one of your favorite albums. Please forgive me.

This list is in alphabetical order, and click on each album cover for a link to a song from the album.

 

Alright, let’s begin.

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Headphone Nation’s Year In Review: 2014

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What better way to end 2014 than to give out some superlatives? As with any sort of end-of-year review, these awards reflect my personal taste and shouldn’t be taken as the final say on the year. Really my hope is that you’ll check out some new music that that you’d otherwise miss.

Also, make sure to click on the album cover for a link to a song off that album.

Alright, let’s begin.

 

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My 25+ Favorite Songs of 2014

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Another year, another playlist of my favorite songs of the year. This year’s playlist has a particular mix of random greatness, from gloriously loud guitar rock to jazzy electronics and everywhere in between. This year wasn’t as full of epic pop songs as last year, but there are still plenty of quality songs to hear from 2014.

Enjoy!

 

*p.s., as time goes on I’ll add other great songs from this year to this playlist that I forgot to include, twenty-five is just a good starting point.

 

 

Against Me! – “True Trans Soul Rebel”

Alvvays – “Adult Diversion”

Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me”

Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”

Gerard Way – “No Shows”

Hamilton Leithauser – “Alexandra”

The Hold Steady – “Spinners”

Honeyblood – “Super Rat”

Lana Del Rey – “Brooklyn Baby”

Mastodon – “The Motherload”

Matt Kivel – “You and I Only”

The Men – “Another Night”

Modern Baseball – “Fine, Great”

Parquet Courts – “Sunbathing Animal”

Real Estate – “Had To Hear”

Reigning Sound – “My My”

Ryan Adams – “When The Summer Ends”

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – “IMF”

Sharon Van Etten – “Tarifa”

Spoon – “Do You”

St. Vincent – “I Prefer Your Love”

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Lariat”

Strand of Oaks – “Goshen ’97”

Sun Kil Moon – “Micheline”

The War On Drugs – “Red Eyes”

AND MORE!

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Four Things I Didn’t Expect To Happen In 2014 (From Someone Who Missed It All)

Five months is a long time to be away. Without a working cellphone or laptop, I was blissfully out of touch with the world of music save the few english music magazines I managed to find. Our reliance on the Internet for most of our news is bittersweet; it’s bitter because it feels like at times you either have too much information or none of it at all, but it’s sweet because I can google all the news and music that I missed.

Last year was great for music because it seemed that every popular artist in the world decided to release music all at once (My Bloody Valentine released an album for goodness sakes). Most albums in 2013 were a lot of fun to talk about (how many arguments have you heard or partaken in for or against Yeezus?), but a lot of those albums I rarely go back to and listen for pure enjoyment.

It seems that, for me at least, 2014 has been more about quality than quantity. The War On Drugs made their best album, The Hold Steady are still alive, a few of my other favorites released music (Sharon Van Etten, Cloud Nothings, Beck, The Men) and I’ve become acquainted with Real Estate, Parquet Courts, How To Dress Well, St. Vincent, and other musicians I knew about before but whom all have converted me into true fans this year. This year has been the year of rookies, redemptions, and breakthroughs, and I think this year, more than other years, we’ve all discovered a few new favorite bands.

Of course this could also mean that 2014 is, if nothing else, just more in tune with my personal taste, the taste of a 21-year-old Midwest music lover who has to rely on the Internet for most of his music. The following are just a few particular things that I’ve noticed about the music that I missed in 2014. Many of these things won’t seem like a big deal to you. Maybe because you’ve seen this year slowly unfold and none of this seems sudden, or maybe you just disagree with me. But it’s fun to write about the halfway point of 2014 with a different perspective. Plus, I need to do a “halfway through 2014” post anyways, so here we go!

 

1. Guitar Rock Music Is Alive And Well

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Just to clarify — great guitar music, in all of its wonderful and diverse forms, has never died. There will always be great music made with Fender guitars plugged into Marshall amps with the occasional tremolo and delay pedals. But in 2014, more than most recent years, it seems that guitar music is not only getting by but actually thriving among popular music.

Whether it’s 90’s nostalgia (Cloud Nothings), Alex Chilton approved classic rock (The Men), Paul Westerberg approved melodic punk (Against Me!), 70’s New York City cool punk (Parquet Courts and Thee Oh Sees), or metal that Foo Fighters fans would like (Mastodon), every type of guitar player had an album to like in 2014.

 

And I don’t know if I can categorize the excellent new The War On Drugs album Lost In The Dream. The band’s previous album, the also excellent Slave Ambient, was a unique marriage of Tom Petty Americana with hints of dreamy guitars that aren’t quite shoegazing but just as pretty, and Lost In The Dream is just an overall improvement of that sound.

 

As of now, my favorite album of 2014 is Real Estate’s Atlas. In addition to having some of the best lyrics of the year, it’s also a great guitar album in the sense that any person just learning guitar can learn all these songs fairly easily, which makes the point that you don’t have to be a virtuoso to make excellent music.

 

All of a sudden, a guitar band doesn’t feel retro, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Also, because I love The Hold Steady, I really think the new album got a lot of undeserved panning.  Teeth Dreams, for all its flaws, is worth another listen.

 

2. No One Seems To Like Jack White Anymore

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Speaking of guitars, I was excited to come home and check out Lazaretto, the newest album from one of rock music’s most dependable crusaders, until I began reading all the mixed reviews on the album which then led to a widespread analysis on White’s legacy (Steven Hyden’s Grantland article is especially good concerning this).

The mixed reviews, along with some interesting interviews in which White attacked The Black Keys and other nice people, made me less thrilled to call myself a Jack White fan. I’ve always liked the idea of Jack White — a musician who takes inspiration from the past and tries to make it new in a way that tributes to the old ways while moving forward. But when I went back to all my White Stripes albums, I realized that most of these albums are, well, just ok. Yes, I know Elephant is a classic album and “Seven Nation Army” is an anthem of a generation and “Ball And Biscuit” is the sound of a guitar having sex, but the rest of the album? This is one of the few times where I 100% agree with a Pitchfork review. As for White’s many side projects — The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, etc — each band has, at the very most, a handful of great songs that’ll remind you how much you miss The White Stripes.

I’ve listened to Lazaretto a couple of times and I agree with many of the reviews that I’ve read — it’s a more high-maintenance Blunderbuss with a few truly great songs hidden among mostly ok to good songs, much like every album Jack White has made after White Blood Cells.

But with all that said, Jack White is still, and will probably always be, the go to guitar champion for much of our generation. I still say that I’m a fan (De Stijl and White Blood Cells still sound great). Plus, in the end, White might have the last laugh.

 

3. 2014 Pop Music — The Ultimate Hangover Year

2013 was one of the greatest years for music in terms of how many popular and established bands released new music. 2014 didn’t have a chance from the start, and halfway through the year that still stands to be true.

The only major bands I know that everyone knows and loves (or at lest loves to hate) that released music this year was Coldplay and The Black Keys, and those albums are less than stellar. Lana Del Rey and Jack White are also more established names in popular music (for very different reasons), but I wouldn’t consider them in the realm of David Bowie, Justin Timberlake, and Kanye West popular, all of whom released new music last year. EDM and electronic pop still seems to be the dominate genre of throwaway hits on the radio, but it feels like the genre is losing momentum, especially after this and this.

There’s still plenty of time for pop music to figure something out, but until then it seems that the only man putting pop music on his back is…

 

4. Pharrell Williams Is Still Ruling The World

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When I left the states, everyone was still listening to “Get Lucky” every single day. Now it’s “Happy”, another product from the man who pretty much had the best year in 2013. Yes, most of you passionately hate this song by now, but this was the only universal hit that I seemed to missed. Also, G I R L is not a bad album, and I say that because I assume no one else has listened to the album after hearing “Happy” so much.

 

So so far so good for 2014. With the recent news of a new Ryan Adams album later this year, I’m already giddy to think of what my end-of-year best lists will consist of. Below you’ll find a Spotify playlist of my favorite songs of 2014 so far. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot more great music in 2014, so let me know if there’s anything else I need to hear!

 

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(At Least) 7 Albums To Look Forward To In 2013

After reading Consequence of Sound’s list of their most excited releases for 2013, I was compelled to make my own list of albums I’m looking forward to listening (hopefully!) this year. A lot of the due dates and album artworks are not confirmed yet, so I’m working with what I got.

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My Bloody Valentine – TBD

Mention the band My Bloody Valentine to your hipster friend and he will become bubbly and ramble on about how their 1991 album Loveless is one of THE greatest albums of all time (no, like really, like, THE GREATEST). Teasing aside (Loveless is indeed worth looking into), the band’s sudden announcement of a new album in over 22 years is causing quite the ruckus. Expectations are impossibly high, but My Bloody Valentine is a band that could actually match those expectations.  This is already 2013’s most scrutinized album, but it could also be its best.

Release date – Apparently January, since the band has confirmed that the album is 100% completed.

 

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Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God

I have no idea what to expect from My Morning Jacket’s lead man’s first solo album, but judging from the album cover I’d say he’ll cover a little bit of everything. Hey who knows, maybe It’ll attract more My Morning Jacket fans, and that’s always a good thing.

Release date – February 5th

 

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Atoms For Peace – Amok

The debut album from a band consisting of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea? Yes please.

Release date – February 18th

 

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Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

As fantastic as Nick Cave is, it seems that he and the Bad Seeds don’t have an accessible album for any newcomer interested in this living legend. Push the Sky Away might very well be that much needed album. Or it could be just another Nick Cave record, which would still be awesome.

Release date – February 19th

 

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HAIM – TBD

I first hear HAIM (pronounced like “lime”) last month from their single, “Forever”, and I immediately fell in love with these girls. A lot of comparisons to Fleetwood Mac are being thrown around, but that doesn’t quite do justice to HAIM’s well crafted indie pop that doesn’t feel in any way dated.

Release date – Sometime in March

 

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Phoenix – TBD

Their smash 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix grabbed the entire world’s attention with their French electro-pop that could sum up what indie rock sounded like in the late 2000s, but now it’s time for their much desired follow up. No word on the overall album’s sound, but apparently it’s very “experimental”, whatever that means…

Release date – April

 

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Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Vile himself described his new album as, “Just rock”. Good enough for me.

Release date – Spring

 

Here are some more releases that I’m looking forward to in 2013, but unfortunately I have almost no knowledge of release dates (some of these might not even be released this year).

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Arcade Fire

Cloud Nothings

Daft Punk

James Blake

Lady Gaga

Vampire Weekend

 

Here’s to 2013!

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Mid-Year Review Part 2: My Favorite Songs Of 2012 (So Far)

Pump out the jams people! Below are my 20 favorite songs of 2012 (so far) with a Spotify link at the bottom to all the songs.

Enjoy!

Sharon Van Etten – “Joke or a Lie”

Bruce Springsteen – “Wrecking Ball”

Lambchop – “Gone Tomorrow”

The Men – “Candy”

M. Ward – “Clean Slate”

Rufus Wainwright – “Sometimes You Need”

The Dig – “I Already Forgot Everything You Said”

Glen Hansard – “You Will Become”

Fiona Apple – “Valentine”

The Henry Clay People – “EveryBandWeEverLoved”

Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”

Sonny And The Sunsets – “Pretend You Love Me”

Beachwood Sparks – “Forget The Song”

Keaton Henson – “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are”

River City Extension – “Slander”

Cloud Nothings – “Stay Useless”

King Tuff – “Wild Desire”

Jack White – “Sixteen Saltines”

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – “Man On Fire”

Frank Ocean – “Sweet Life”

And of course, here’s a Spotify mix of my favorite songs of 2012 so far.

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Mid-Year Review Part 1: My Favorite Albums of 2012 (So Far)

Well it’s halfway through 2012 and there have been some great releases this year so far. All the albums we thought were going to be great (Lana Del Rey, The Shins) fizzled out. So it was up to the underdogs to step up and make 2012 a surprisingly great year for music.

Here are my favorite albums of 2012 so far.

Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

The 90s guitar revival is still alive and well (at least in the indie world). Cloud Nothings’s breakthrough hit is so far the best guitar rock album of 2012.

 

The Men – Open Your Heart

The Foo Fighters ain’t gonna last forever, and when they go The Men will take their place as the kings of hard rock…well, I mean as long as they make great albums like Open Your Heart.

 

Jack White – Blunderbuss

Mr. White’s debut solo album is already considered a classic, and I would have to agree. The album blends all of White’s favorite styles into an organic mix of what we can now call that signature Jack White sound.

 

Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball

The Boss literally does not have to make any more music for the rest of his life, and yet he and the E Street Band are still chugging along. Wrecking Ball is a genuinely great album that actually may catch you off guard with how folky it sounds. With songs addressing the Occupy Wall Street movement, this is an album for a specific era of American history.

 

Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

How I stumbled across this album I’ll never remember, but I’m so glad I found it. Etten’s voice can scare the hell out of you and also break your heart, all at the same time. She’s even better live.

 

John Mayer – Born and Raised

I was surprised with how little buzz John Mayer’s fifth album got, but it doesn’t really matter – the music will stand the test of time. Mayer’s country-rock influences come across naturally and combines well with his pop smarts. Be prepared for this being his last album that he’ll ever sing on due to issues with his throat.

 

River City Extension – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger

This album is still very fresh in my memory, but I can tell you now this album will be one of my favorites by this year’s end. A beautiful mix of alt-country and noise rock with lyrics as good as the harmonies. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, this is the album for you.

 

The Henry Clay People – Twenty-Five For The Rest Of Our Lives

This album clocks in just under 28 minutes, but you’ll be too busy banging your head to notice. This album is fast and furious, yet it’s melodic and sweet. Imagine if Big Star were more of a punk band.

 

Frank Ocean – Channel Ocean

The story of the year goes along with the album which I assume will top every music publication’s list as the best album of 2012. This isn’t so much a rap record as it is a soulful and beautiful portrait of an artist as a young man. There were times I thought I was listening to Stevie Wonder, and that’s a huge complement.

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Music Journal: January Recap – Lana Del Rey Fizzles, Mickey Mouse Teams Up With Joy Division, And More

Well it’s the end of the first month of 2012 (supposedly the last January of our existence?!), and there was plenty going on in the music world.  Here were some notable stories from the past month, along with my favorite album of January.

Lana Del Rey’s Debut Finally Drops…And There’s Nothing Much There.

With an official debut coming out and tons of hype behind her, Del Rey had nearly impossible expectations to meet in January, and of course she failed to meet them.  She bombed her performance on SNL – it sounded like a bad American Idol audition – and her debut album didn’t match the excitement that the hype had created about her.  Looks like we have another victim of the Internet Hype Machine.  I’ll always love “Video Games” though.

 

Disney Starts Selling Joy Division Shirts…Then Takes Them Off The Market

Disney finally started listening to their post-punk demographic and began selling Disney shirts with the famous Unknown Pleasures‘s album cover in the shape of the famous Mickey Mouse head.  However, the shirts created quite a stir among some people, and they were quickly removed.  It’s a shame – now what am I supposed to wear on Space Mountain?

 

RIP Etta James

Etta James left us in January, and she took with her one hell of a voice.  She will be greatly missed.

 

My Album of the Month: Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

Cloud Nothings third album, and the first with a proper producer, is a short but sweet kick in the ass.  Much like Yuck’s debut last year, Attack On Memory will take you back to the good old days of the Lo-Fi 90s.

 

The Song I Listened To The Most: James Blake – “A Case of You”

This Joni Mitchell cover was released in October, but it was all I listened to in January.  After hearing James Blake on piano without any electronics, his excellent debut album sounds more like Blue than Kid A.

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First Impression: Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory

The First Great Album of 2012?

Most modern indie bands sound like they’re either trying to revive the electronic 80s or the Lo-Fi 90s, and Cloud Nothings falls under the latter.  Cloud Nothings started as a project of Dylan Baldi, an Ohio-bred rocker who probably grew up on Pavement and Guided By Voices records.  His two previous albums sound exactly like midwestern DIY – self-produced, in your face, distorted, and with plenty of attitude.  This time around, Baldi got himself a producer (Steve Albini in fact) and the two, along with a legitimate band, have made Attack On Memory, the first great album of 2012.

Things start off nice and slow, somewhat unusual for a Lo-Fi album.  On album opener “No Future/No Past”, Piano soon gives way to drums, than guitar, then Baldi’s vocals.  The drumming gets more intense, the guitars louder, and Baldi sings with more passion until everything comes together in a great Lo-Fi moment.  Most of the album feels like this, different pieces floating around seeming out-of-place until they come together nicely for the chorus.  The guitar is the star of the record, which is refreshing considering that few indie albums lately have put any real emphasis on the guitar.

Baldi is a great Lo-Fi singer, which means you can’t understand every word he says, but he’s passionate about everything he’s saying.  He was smart to bring on Albini to produce his album, whose impressive track record includes Nirvana’s last album In Utero and Pixies’s Surfer Rosa.  Thanks to Albini, songs that would have been forgettable now will make you want to sing along with.  The nine minutes of “Wasted Days” might drag on, but that’s the only time the album ever feels slow.  In fact, the album isn’t slow enough.  Clocking in at thirty-four minutes, Attack On Memory feels more like an EP than an actual album.

The unfortunate thing with an album like Attack On Memory is that once you hear one Lo-Fi album, you heard them all.  Much like Yuck’s debut album last year, the album plays off as a tribute to a genre.  So while the music is great, there’s nothing really here to discover.  I listen to this album thinking there’s more to come, but I am disappointed.  I am also disappointed in the lack of variety in the songs, but Lo-Fi music isn’t really known for variety.

It’s important to keep in mind that Cloud Nothings have only been around for two years and it already is making an evolution from a bedroom project to an actual band.  Attack On Memory makes me excited to see what else will come from Dylan Baldi, and now I have some good tunes to listen to while waiting.

Overall First Impression: A well produced album that still feels like it was made in the bedroom.  Short, sweet, and to the point.

Highlights: “Fall In”, “Stay Useless”, “Cut You”

Rating: 3/5

“Stay Useless”

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