I had no intention of doing any sort of decade-end list, even when I saw various other “best songs of the 2000s” rankings go by, but when I heard the #2 song on this list on the radio last week I had the idea of doing a blog post about it, and after a few terrible, discarded ideas, landed upon this. This isn’t a greatest songs list – just a list of my favorite songs of the 2000s, with longevity serving as my main criterion: I had to like the song, and like it enough that I still wanted to hear it months or years later. Aside from a few hip-hop songs, it’s almost entirely alternative, with a heavy British influence, which probably just says that my listening tastes have become as narrow as my reading tastes are wide.
40. The Darkness – “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.” The first of several songs on this list to heavily reference 1970s hard rock, with the Darkness unabashedly stealing from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that brought us bands like Iron Maiden and Motorhead. Wikipedia says this song was on the soundtrack for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which seems comparable to putting a Yanni song on the soundtrack to Hostel.
39. Jurassic 5 – “What’s Golden.” I think their best song was 1998′s “Without a Doubt” – if they’d stuck with that slightly harder sound, they might have found a more consistent audience – but this was the high point of their recordings after that debut disc.
38. The Music – “Freedom Fighters.” Another ’70s-influenced band – that huge guitar riff just fills your ears, and I think the lack of a singable chorus hurt their chances on this side of the pond. “Breakin’” gets an honorable mention, but that flopped here as well, and they have possibly the least radio-friendly band name since Pussy Galore.
37. Carbon Leaf – “The Boxer.” Done right, rock tinged with Irish folk music is among my favorite styles of music. To the ring, to the right.
36. Velvet Revolver – “Slither“. I admit it – hearing this for the first time, I went right back to ’87 and the first time I heard Appetite for Destruction. Of course, back in ’87 it blew my ears off, while in 2004 it was a little quaint.
35. Mute Math – “Typical.” Too clever by half? Mute Math seems to have a reputation as a brilliant band, and the whole playing-backwards trick was pretty cool, but “I know there’s got to be another level/Somewhere closer to the other side” might as well be a Backstreet Boys lyric. Good thing the hook in the chorus is so catchy.
34. Stereophonics – “Have A Nice Day.” Yes, I know “Dakota” was far more successful on both sides of the Atlantic, but having listened to Stereophonics’ earlier output, I felt like I’d heard “Dakota” too many times before – “The Bartender And The Thief” is a similar yet better song in the same pseudo-punk vein, and “Local Boy In The Photograph”
is better but less punk-ish, although both were released too early for this list. “Have a Nice Day” is a slower, folkier number based on the cliched provincial cab driver met by the band – this one in San Francisco, as the story goes – but I’ll give Kelly Jones credit for a more detailed picture of the driver’s attitude and for putting such a unique stamp on the song with his raspy vocals. Come to think of it, I need to reload all my Stereophonics tracks on to my iPod.
33. White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army.” Great song, but overplayed to the point where I can still only take it in limited doses. One of the top intro bass lines in rock history.
32. Morningwood – “Nth Degree.” Surprised this never caught on as a “get amped” song at sporting events. Because it … gets you amped. I still have no idea what the shrieking voice says in the chorus.
31. Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye.” How long before we brand these guys one-hit wonders? And am I the only one who wasn’t sure if the lead singer was male or female? Great song in the single edit, but the outro to the album track is just late-60s wanking, and I doubt there’s been a bigger letdown for me when learning the actual lyrics to any song. “That same old decent lazy-eye?” Uh, okay.
30. Keane – “Somewhere Only We Know.” And the first track on their next album, “Spiralling,” was great and much more uptempo, which deked me into buying the entire thing only to discover that it sucked. But “Somewhere” is a beautiful lament along the lines of Coldplay’s “Trouble,” but with more urgency and less dirge.
29. Matt & Kim – “Daylight.” I think this is the newest (by release date) song on the list, although that’s a function of my attempt to avoid excessive recent-ism in putting the top 40 together. It’s the best White Stripes song not written or recorded by the White Stripes.
28. Coldplay – “In My Place.” I understand that “Clocks” is The Hit for these guys, but I was burned out on that song within a year, even before the Jays used it in a video montage at the end of the 2003 season to pay tribute to Roy Halladay’s (presumed, at the time) Cy Young-winning performance. I heard this song at a Coldplay concert from their first tour, and that opening riff made it the most memorable song of the night, even though I’d never heard it before.
27. Ian Brown – “Upside Down.” I’m not sure I would have even discovered this if it wasn’t by the former lead singer of the Stone Roses, since it garnered no airplay that I know of in the U.S. and is probably the most bizarre song on the list, with no percussion and an incongruous trumpet solo. Then again, Brown’s solo stuff has all been weird and compelling, so while this isn’t as good as “Set My Baby Free,” it’s his best song of the decade.
26. Wolfmother – “Joker And The Thief.” If you’re into old-school guitar rock at all, you had to like this song, right? The opening lick was hypnotic, and the producer tweaked every bit for maximum bombast. Sort of a guy’s guy song. I would have been surprised if they’d ever cooked up anything close to this good again.
25. Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy.” Cee-Lo’s “Closet Freak,” from his 2002 solo debut, gets an honorable mention here, too. Of course, “Crazy” ended up massively overplayed, and at this point I could stand a six-month break from it.
24. Flogging Molly – “Float.” I’ve mentioned this one before – I’m something of a sucker for Irish folk songs or, as with “Float,” songs that bring that sound forward into a sort of folk-rock hybrid. Few do it well and this, to me, is the pinnacle.
23. Chemical Brothers featuring Q-Tip, “Galvanize.” And let me just state for the record that I was all over this song a year before Budweiser stuck it on their commercials. There really is no justification for using a song this good to advertise a beer that bad.
22. Interpol – “Slow Hands.” This was the first Interpol song that didn’t sound to me like a blatant Joy Division ripoff (not that that’s even a bad thing, as there are forty million worse bands to rip off than JD), and also showed their deft hand at manipulating tempo and layering to create a full, textured song with a cathartic release in the final chorus.
21. The Stills – “Still In Love Song.” I thought these guys were supposed to be the next big thing, but this turned out to be their only … I can’t quite call it a hit. But the mix of sneer and despair in the vocals and the plaintive lead guitar line before each verse gave the song a Smiths vibe without a needless Morrissey impersonation.
20. Doves – “Words.” Either that main guitar riff hooks you on the first listen, or it annoys the hell out of you and you can’t get it out of your head for weeks. Needless to say I’m in group one, and the added layering as the song goes on just builds a tension that’s only broken by the quieter counterpoint in each chorus.
19. Sambassadeur – “Kate.” If the Kings of Convenience had been right and quiet really was the new loud, the Swedish band Sambassadeur would have been huge. As it was, they had to settle for royalties from a Payless Shoes commercial and a spot on my iPod. The song would be unbearably twee if it wasn’t for the lead singer’s slightly smoky voice and faint Swedish accent.
18. The Hives – “Hate To Say I Told You So.” The skinny ties and matching outfits were stupid, but they churned out a few memorable bone-crunchers, including this song and “Walk Idiot Walk.”
17. The Soundtrack of Our Lives – “Sister Surround.” I thought their Behind the Music album would cross over, but their sound was probably 25 years late and five years early, as ’70s guitar rock seemed to make a comeback at the end of the decade with songs like Wolfmother’s entry on the list.
16. Gorillaz – “19-2000 (Soulchild Remix).” The best fake band ever? I suppose an angry Rutles fan will show up in the comments to flame me. The hip pick for decade-end lists is “Feel Good Inc.,” another great song and one boosted by De La Soul’s best output since 3 Feet High and Rising, but this remix of an otherwise unremarkable song from Gorillaz’ debut has been on my main playlist since I first entered the digital music player world five or six years ago.
15. White Stripes – “Icky Thump.” I don’t generally get excited about politically-themed lyrics, but these were spot-on, in large part because Jack White picked a topic you could actually address in three minutes of words. Oh, and the song rocks.
14. The Klaxons – “Golden Skans.” Nu-rave died fast, yet the Klaxons, one of its leading lights, lived on. Good luck getting the chorus out of your head.
13. Modest Mouse – “Dashboard.” Johnny Marr’s revenge. I also think of this as the great pop song the Pixies never made.
12. Mike Doughty – “Looking At The World From The Bottom Of A Well.” A bouncy, sing-along (and ironic) track inspired by one of my favorite novels. The whole album, Haughty Melodic (an anagram of “Michael Doughty”), was excellent, although this was clearly the best track. I still miss Soul Coughing.
11. Queens of the Stone Age – “The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret.” “No One Knows” is a great song, but nothing could top this sinister groove from their first album, Rated R, the perfect marriage of a subtle melody and detuned guitars.
10. Outkast – “Hey Ya!.” The best Prince song by an artist other than Prince.
9. Crystal Method – “Name Of The Game.” Not normally my style of music, but guitar riffs from Tom Morello and a contribution from a member of underground rap group Styles of Beyond plus a driving beat make for a hell of a driving or workout song.
8. Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out.” Requires no explanation, I assume.
7. The Dandy Warhols – “Bohemian Like You.” A bit forgotten as the music scene changed over the course of the decade, but it’s a catchy song dripping with snark aimed at the indie music scene.
6. White Stripes – “The Denial Twist.” Not their usual straight-ahead rocker, but they manage to update a Motown-esque sound into their minimalist musical style with plenty of wordplay in the lyrics. I probably could have put another half-dozen White Stripes songs on this list without much of a stretch.
5. Roots featuring Musiq – “Break You Off.” The best hip-hop song of the decade, assuming you accept it as hip-hop instead of R&B or soul or just … great music.
4. Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.” Still like this song as much now as when I first heard it, if not more. Spawned dozens of imitators, none of which produced a song this good.
3. Coldplay – “Viva La Vida.” Brilliant track from a brilliant album. I do wish these idiots hadn’t made themselves soft-rock icons with XY, because it has hurt their credibility as artists trying to expand the boundaries of pop (or pop/rock) music.
2. Kaiser Chiefs – “I Predict A Riot.” They did have another minor success with “Ruby,” but I think they’re really destined to go down as one of rock’s greatest one-hit wonders with this bizarre, relentless song that pairs despairing lyrics with an upbeat track.
1. Doves – “Caught By The River.” (video, although it’s the edited version) My favorite track by my favorite band, the soaring end to The Last Broadcast. Heavy U2 influence on the guitar interludes between verses. The fire that destroyed Sub Sub’s recording studio was probably the greatest conflagration in music history.