The song at #82 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Cough Syrup” by Southern California alternative rock band Young the Giant. This is the second song by them on this best of the decade list, their other being “Superposition” which ranks at #91. “Cough Syrup” is one of their most well-known songs, and my personal favorite. It was released in 2011 as the second single from their eponymous debut album Young the Giant, but the song actually predated the band, as it was composed when they were called The Jakes, and first appeared on their 2008 EP Shake My Hand.
It’s a beautiful song, with gorgeous swirling guitars, somber cello and spirited drumbeats creating a stunning backdrop for band front man Sameer Gadhia’s passionate vocals. About the song’s meaning, Gadhia has stated it was written at a time when the band was unsigned, had no money and “felt somewhat oppressed by the universal expectation of what to do in Orange County…in suburbia in general. I think we really yearned to break out of that and do something a little bit different. [The song] is kind of a cry for help to break free, not necessarily from oppression, but from the common symptoms of suburbia like boredom, normality and homogeneity.”
I saw Young the Giant in concert in August 2019 (in a double bill with Fitz & the Tantrums), and here’s their wonderful performance of “Cough Syrup”.