PLAYLIST: 12 Rock Songs From 2010 We Miss

Remembering forgotten bangers from Cloud Nothings, Fang Island, Japandroids, and more on their tenth birthday.

Last month, a handful of album titles dating back to 2010 re-entered the public consciousness for a brief sec as they made appearances on a smattering of best-of-the-decade lists. Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs and Beach House’s Teen Dream were a couple 2010 titles that reared their heads in the artist group poll we shared back in November, while contributors like Best Coast and Grouplove themselves dropped memorable releases that year which went mostly overlooked in such reappraisals of the decade in music.

Narrowing in on the year 2010, we wanted to revisit a few such unfairly neglected releases with a short playlist highlighting some of the best and least talked-about tracks from the vantage point of 2020. Marking the peak of blog-sourced indie rock, the entry point for last decade may feel archaic by now—though these songs feel as fresh as ever.

1. Fang Island, “Careful Crossers”

Fang Island was a blur of high-fives and excessive guitars, fizzling out after an underheard follow-up to their boisterous debut. In their defense, math rock was on its way out, and we hadn’t fully distanced ourselves from the insufferable irony that plagued ’00s rock outside of Andrew W.K.—but with a Daughters-aissance fully underway it seems like Nick Sadler’s game-changing guitarsmanship is finally seeing the respect it deserves. Fang Island’s instrumental opener “Careful Crossers” introduces the group’s unique take on guitars-driven rock, putting their interweaving riffs on full display while managing to hold onto the title of Most Important Breakdown of the Decade ten years later. 

Last heard: Live in concert in 2010, with somewhere between three and twelve guitarists standing abreast in psychedelic Sunn O))) cloaks

2. Marnie Stern, “For Ash”

For a largely male-dominated genre (specifically, renowned males Zach Hill and Nick Reinhart), Marnie Stern was a welcome addition to math rock’s small canon. Though Hill drums on Stern’s self-titled breakout LP, the record is dominated by her erratic shredding and indiscernible high-pitched vocals—a combination that peaks on the jittery, riff-happy opener “For Ash.” She may not have quite this level of freedom playing lead guitar for Seth Meyers’ Late Show band these days, but it’s safe to say nothing will ever meet the unbridled Marnie that was her 2010 shredfest.

Last heard: On some desperate late-night math rock binge, some time between The Ladies o’clock and half past Bygones 

3. Harlem, “Friendly Ghost”

Harlem was my gateway drug to lo-fi garage rock. Such bands were a dime a dozen in 2010, but Harlem did it best—the trio’s sloppy, Matador-approved sound proved that their genre was more than just pizza parties, burnout, and irony, penning celebratory ballads about subjects like, um, a basketball team called Gay Human Bones. “Friendly Ghost” was always the track that stood out most to me—a three-minute jaunt about being an amiable spirit contrasting wonderfully with the heavier West Coast sound dominating the scene. Their return early last year saw the now-duo tidied up a bit, honing in on the pop appeal of tracks like “Ghost.”

Last heard: Austin airport, July 2019

4. Noun, “Holy Hell”

Two months before Castle Talk hit shelves, Screaming Female Marissa Paternoster debuted her solo project Noun with the never-fully-appreciated Holy Hell, whose title track hardly deviates from the punk ethos of her main gig. Packed into a tight two minutes, “Holy Hell” is unusually melodic for an SF side project, showcasing a neater partition of repressed verses and a soaring chorus, culminating in a zippy guitar solo. Though it’s not as eye-catching as her follow-up, 2015’s Throw Your Body on the Gears and Stop the Machine With Your Blood, there’s a subtle brilliance to “Holy Hell” that stacks up to the best of Screaming Females’ output.

Last heard: When I tried Googling Hellfyre rapper VerBS circa 2015, misremembering his name

5. Menomena, “TAOS”

Do either of the remaining rock bands still prominently feature bassoon—Twenty One Pilots or whatever that Dragons one is? I feel like it was briefly a thing in the aughts, Menomena being the most faithful to the sinister woodwind. With attractive song titles like “Killemall” and “Rottenhell,” the trio specialized in a doomy-if-not-slightly-goofy brand of rock, proving themselves to be the Coens of their scene. “TAOS” displays the band at their orchestral peak, blending ’ssoon with backing vocal harmonies and grand piano. The band hiatused after 2012’s Moms, though you can still find members collabing with The National and soundtracking Christian film adaptations.

Last heard: Never stopped listening, bro

6. Deer Tick, “Twenty Miles”

The evolution of Deer Tick has been interesting, to say the least. Making a name for themselves with a pair of punky folk-rock albums, their later output has traversed the spectrum of barroom punk to dad rock, while briefly landing in unsuspectedly morose territory in between. 2010’s Black Dirt Sessions is a muddy, stripped-down Americana record steeped in moody cello and moodier lyrics, “Twenty Miles” being the most radio-friendly of the depressive lot. It’s solemnity felt like a high point for the band, who’ve harnessed this uniquely same dark energy on occasion since.

Last heard: Probably at Trader Joe’s

7. Japandroids, “Darkness on the Edge of Gastown”

The unofficial fourth Japandroids album never really got a moment to shine—immediately following the much-lauded Post-Nothing, the singles comp No Singles was a jarring regression of the duo’s honed formula, providing listeners with enough proto-Japandroids jams to tide listeners over before their follow-up. The engaging opening track is a Vancouverite riff on a Springsteen track, though “Darkness on the Edge of Gastown” is the group’s most headbang-inviting single to date. Lyrically and production-wise it’s pretty primitive—even for a band as lo-fi as this, and with a song called “I Quit Girls”—but it’s definitely more metal than anything else messenger-bag kids were listening to pre-Deafheaven.

Last heard: Under my intransigent insistence that No Singles is canon some time post-Celebration Rock

8. Male Bonding, “Pirate Key”

Somehow Male Bonding only ever seemed to exist in relation to bands like Wavves and No Age, usually as a lesser-known-and-therefore-hipper alternative to either punk group. Sure, “Year’s Not Long,” their most well-known song, sounds like it could fit in the transitory period between Wavvves and King of the Beach, but singles like “Pirate Key” were pretty uniquely MB, with the UK band sounding way less resigned than their American counterparts, both lyrically and vocally—not to mention the aggressive drumming that characterizes the song, which counters the chaotic energy of Nathan Williams’ partnership with Zach Hill. 

Last heard: No offense, but I heard Nothing Hurts for the first time last year

9. Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, “Let’s Paint Our Teeth Green”

I’m still bitter about no one else getting on board with Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s transitioning from alt-folk to freaky electric guitar rock. Like, sleazy, motel-romance, haunted-by-a-lower-back-tattoo freaky—a pretty shocking left turn for a band whose acoustic rock ballads were slightly vulgar at worst. If “Birds” set the album up as an uncomfortable, slightly Lynchian listen, it’s “Let’s Paint Our Teeth Green” that confirms it as skin-crawl rock with its lurching guitars, howling back-up vocals, and Richard Edwards’ deranged ideas of romance. 

Last heard: Not exactly sure, but there must have been a break-up or unrequited love involved

10. The Morning Benders, “All Day Daylight”

The Morning Benders had one of the biggest come-ups and subsequent go-downs of the moment, developing from a respectable lower-tier bedroom pop band in the late aughts to an enormous studio endeavor in 2010—enlisting Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor to provide razor-sharp baroque production—before changing their name to POP ETC. and making dance pop music that clearly didn’t align with their fanbase’s interests in the new decade. Their peak, though, was near the end of Big Echo when “All Day Daylight” perfectly balanced the unbridled fun of their early lo-fi aesthetic with the somber Boxer sound of much of the rest of the record. 

Last heard: I’m sure this song has been used in at least one commercial—but if not, it was at a sold-out 2010 show, where the entire room was participating in the song’s handclaps, to a nearly violent degree

11. Moonhearts, “I Hate Myself” 

Long before the Bay Area garage rock scene ruled by John Dwyer and Ty Segall moved to LA and gravitated toward bizarre genres like krautrock and disco to resuscitate, there was Moonhearts—the chaotic-evil marriage of Charlie Moothart (Fuzz, Ty Segall Band, GØGGS, The Perverts, Epsilons, Culture Kids), Mikal Cronin (Mikal Cronin, Ty Segall Band, Okie Dokie, Party Fowl, Epsilons), and Roland Cosio (Fuzz, Party Fowl, Epsilons). They sputtered out after one LP and a ton of 7-inch singles, though “I Hate Myself” is a vicious time capsule of this particular garage punk scene. 

Last heard: A few years ago upon returning home for the holidays and rediscovering my video iPod

12. Cloud Nothings, “Leave You Forever”

Cloud Nothings found their voice in 2012 when Dylan Baldi discovered post-hardcore, but prior to Attack on Memory he was pumping out some of the coolest lo-fi punk of the era, the best of which came as a loosie prior to his debut for Carpark. I guess “Leave You Forever” sounds like the bones of Baldi’s later music, sped way up and depleted of muscular guitars and cracked vocals, making it the perfect track to contrast with “No Sentiment” for a staggering postulation of what could have possibly happened to Baldi in 2011.

Last heard: Is The Exchange still a store?

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