In January of 2010 I threw together a ranking of the top 40 songs of the first decade of the 2000s, strictly my personal opinion, and realized pretty quickly after posting it that I’d done an awful job. I just didn’t follow music closely enough through the entire decade to craft a credible list, even within the usual confines of my own musical tastes. I got a bunch of suggestions from readers for new artists or songs to check out, and for the last year and a half have been keeping a running tally of songs that might belong on an updated ranking, which I present to you here. I’m hoping I did a better job this time.
The list is limited to songs released between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2009 – I did my best to verify dates. Linked song titles go to amazon; I’ve included links to videos where they’re notable or the song is not that widely known. Please send your complaints that I have too many British artists on here to /dev/null. Actually, send all your complaints there.
100. the xx – “Islands.” I have ridiculed them for being too quiet and verging on boring, and I do stand by that – their Mercury Prize-winning debut album couldn’t hold my attention except for two songs, “Crystallized” and this one, which features one of the most clever videos I’ve seen in recent years.
99. Basement Jaxx – “Where’s Your Head At.” A phenomenal video and one of the best electronica songs of the decade, but my faulty memory put it on their 1999 debut album, Remedy. And hey, isn’t that Patton Oswalt? (No – no, it’s not.)
98. Bloc Party – “Banquet.” (video) From their acclaimed debut album Silent Alarm, “Banquet” – written in B-flat minor, according to Wikipedia (which is never wrong) – always felt to me like a new Wire or Gang of Four track, even with all the Cure/Joy Division comparisons the band received from critics.
97. TV on the Radio – “Wolf Like Me.” It does kind of figure that the only TV on the Radio song I like is far and away their most conventional song; their more typical, experimental stuff leaves me cold. Maybe I’d be a lousy music critic as a result, but this is the song I want on my iPod.
96. The Avett Brothers – “Kick Drum Heart.” I am supposed to love these guys because I like Mumford and Sons, but the only tracks of theirs I’ve liked are this and “I And Love and You.” However, if you do like the Avett Brothers, let me again recommend Tin Cup Gypsy, whom I saw in concert this past weekend – similar music, outstanding musicians, and stunning harmonies.
95. The Wombats – “Let’s Dance To Joy Division.” If the Arctic Monkeys wrote an upbeat song with depressing lyrics about the archetype of the depressing band, you’d get this.
93. Queens of the Stone Age – “Little Sister.” (video) Almost a pop song from these guys – Josh Homme gets far too little credit for his ability to craft a memorable, radio-friendly hook – paying homage to the song of the same name recorded by Elvis Presley, but, sadly, no apparent connection to the great novel of the same name by Raymond Chandler.
92. The Vincent Black Shadow – “Metro.” Named for a famous motorcycle, the VBS still exist but without the lead singer, Cassandra Snow, who made this song what it is with her double-time staccato delivery, telling the story in mock-comic tones of a mental breakdown over a punk-ska backdrop.
90. The Dandy Warhols – “We Used To Be Friends.” Yes, the theme to Veronica Mars, although I never did like that show (not for lack of trying it).
89. Cold War Kids – “Hang Me Up To Dry.” The lyrics struck me as mostly nonsense, but I love the menacing feel to the sparse music, especially the bass line that introduces the song.
88. Franz Ferdinand – “The Dark Of The Matinée.” Hook-laden as usual, with lines like “leave this academic factory,” how could you lose?
87. Air – “Cherry Blossom Girl.” I’m not quite sure what to call Air – “Radio #1″ was sort of alternative rock-ish, but “Girl” is this soft, ethereal ballad that might fit on adult contemporary radio. I give them credit for making an X-rated video that 1) wasn’t going to get any play anywhere and 2) uses pornography in a way that seems anti-pornographic. Apparently the video was directed by a porn director noted for his idiosyncratic style, making it more impressive that he would paint such an unflattering view of his own industry.
86. Killers – “Somebody Told Me.” Almost a grudging inclusion – I have never understood the critical fuss over these guys, although I understand their popularity given how watered-down their pop-rock is. Remember their (likely fake) feud with the Bravery? It was the alternative equivalent to the Backstreet Boys versus N*SYNC. Anyway, this was their first and biggest hit and, to my ears, the least saccharine.
85. Big Pink – “Dominos.” (video) I’ll admit the lyrics annoy me – they sit somewhere in the intersection of obnoxious and mildly misogynistic – but the chorus gets stuck in my head for weeks at a time, and the drum lines seem like they owe a debt to John Bonham.
84. Oasis – “Go Let It Out.” The decade saw plenty of output from these guys, nearly all of it disappointing, neither as original as Definitely Maybe and What’s the Story, Morning Glory nor as over-the-top as Be Here Now. This song was the closest to the formula of their first two albums as they have come since the century ended.
83. Gomez – “Silence.” (video). A few years too early, perhaps? Or just too British? Seems like the kind of indie-rock song that should have found a home on US alternative radio. I always liked the lines “So why’d I sit on my hands like a book on a shelf/When nothing but dust is falling?,” probably because I like any imagery involving books on shelves.
82. Interpol – “PDA.” Still the most dead-on Joy Division imitation I’ve ever heard – and I mean that in the best way possible. I’ve liked plenty of Interpol singles, but the competing guitar lines behind the bridge of leading into the driving, muted chorus give “PDA” a melancholy tone few other rock songs match.
81. Stone Temple Pilots – “Glide.” The whole album – recorded between jail stints for Scott Weiland – was solid, including the heavy opening track “Down,” but the psychedelic “Glide” and the somber ballad “Atlanta” were the two that broke the group out of their narrow box of 70s-infused alternative rock.
80. Modest Mouse – “Float On.” The alternative rock equivalent of Johnny Damon or Javier Vazquez – a song without a peak (this was never something I was skipping through my iPod playlist to hear) but that has held its value for years after release.
79. 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.
78. Gorillaz – “Clint Eastwood.” The triumphant return of Del tha Funkee Homosapien.
77. Tegan and Sara – “Walking With A Ghost.” (video) I’ve never heard anything from these two that comes close to this song’s post-punk pop urgency vibe. It’s perhaps best known for the White Stripes’ cover, which – and it pains me to say this as a White Stripes fan – did the original no favors at all. Then again, I don’t like their cover of “Jolene” either.
76. Them Crooked Vultures – “New Fang.” Just barely qualifies, as it was released in the final weeks of 2009, and didn’t really come to my attention until it won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance this past February. (I still wonder if the song won because it deserved the award, or because it had the requisite old guy on board in John Paul Jones.) Them Crooked Vultures is what Masters of Reality were supposed to be when they brought Ginger Baker on board for their second album; the two groups are connected by M.O.R.’s singer, Chris Goss, who co-produced Queens of the Stone Age’s Era Vulgaris.
75. Amy Winehouse – “You Know I’m No Good.” Talented, yes. Troubled, yes. But the fact that she died young shouldn’t affect anyone’s assessment of her music. I think her best work was likely ahead of her, if she’d stayed sober enough to produce it. What we’re left with is a Brien Taylor career and theories on what might have been.
74. Cage the Elephant – “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked.” Not sure if they’ll fully break out of the college-music niche where they’ve found so much success, as the looseness of their sound may not play well with the mass audience, but the singer’s lackadaisical storytelling vibe and the stoner-rock influences in the music offered us something different, at least for one album.
73. Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows.” This was Reed Johnson’s walkup music from when he came up with Toronto at least until I left the club, which didn’t help him hit right-handed pitching but made it easier to watch him try.
72. Doves – “Pounding.” (video) Maybe the hardest track on what is still my favorite album of the 2000s, The Last Broadcast, as well as the song I thought most likely to find an audience on U.S. radio stations at the time. That didn’t work out as planned.
71. Tokyo Police Club – “Your English Is Good.” (video) I have no idea what this song is about, but it’s catchy and snotty and my wife thought it was really annoying so I can’t use it as a ringtone any more.
70. The Broken Bells – “The High Road.” (video) Collaboration between Danger Mouse and James Mercer of the Shins. Features one of my favorite song lyrics of the decade, “The dawn to end all nights/That’s all we hoped it was.” Also inspired my first and only YTMND posting, which might ruin the song for you forever.
69. Rogue Wave – “Lake Michigan.” (video) Written in 3/4- or 6/8-time, which led the Dancing With the Stars band to use it for a waltz and absolutely dismember the song in the process. My wife originally thought the lyrics were “get off of my stash” and that it was a song about a quilter fiercely guarding his stash of fabric.
68. Stereophonics – “Dakota.” (video). More straight-ahead rock-and-roll than most Stereophonics songs, even compared to early hits like “The Bartender and Thief,” with Kelly Jones channeling Faces-era Rod Stewart. They’ve had better melodies than this once, mostly in their 1990s output, plus one song further up this list.
67. Radiohead – “Optimistic.” Wikipedia, which is never wrong, says that this was the most-played track off Kid A, which is easy to believe as it’s the most accessible song on the album and one of the few with a hint of a guitar. I’m an early Radiohead fan, meaning the moment they switched off the guitars, I mostly switched off of them. I may be the only person on the Internet who didn’t lose his shit over In Rainbows (“Bodysnatchers” is solid, but didn’t make this list). They may remain critical darlings, but OK Computer was their peak.
66. OK Go – “Here It Goes Again.” The official video, featuring choreography on treadmills, has been viewed over 10 million times on Youtube. They get bonus points* for being baseball fans. (*No actual bonus points have been awarded on this or any other basis.)
65. Gorillaz – “Feel Good Inc.” I’ll give it to Damon Albarn – he has pretty good taste in rappers, going for De la Soul here for the lead single off Demon Days. As I type this, the album is on sale for just $5 on amazon.
64. 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. They seem to have drifted into critical and hipster revile; I don’t love this song the way I did when it first came out, mostly because the more you listen to the lyrics the more trite they seem, but it’s the rare piano-without-guitar song I do like and will find stuck in my head for hours.
63. Passion Pit – “Little Secrets.” (video) I swear I wrote about this song when it first came out, but either the post was lost when the blog was corrupted two years ago or my memory just sucks. I still can’t believe that’s a male singer. I’m not sure what this subgenre, also populated by Foster the People and Naked + Famous, is called, but this song is the best I’ve heard within it.
62. White Stripes – “My Doorbell.” One of their goofier songs, but with the typical Jack White twist (“I don’t need any of your pity, I’ve got plenty of my own friends/They’re all above me”).
61. Doves – “Black And White Town.” (video) After The Last Broadcast, Doves had some critical momentum to try to convert into commercial success, and led off with a very strong single with their usual blend of driving rhythms and dark background notes. Unfortunately, the rest of the album was dull, and by the time they came back strongly with Kingdom of Rust, their moment had passed. I’m still a huge fan, though.
60. Arcade Fire – “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out).” (video) The best track off their debut album – more under control than its other tracks; some fans prefer that loosely controlled chaos, while I prefer the more polished approach that came on last year’s The Suburbs. The video has a real Triples of Belleville feel to it.
59. Arctic Monkeys – “Fluorescent Adolescent.” (video) Listen to the first few bars and watch HGTV’s Income Property. Then tell me the latter isn’t at least highly derivative of the former. Anyway, the Arctic Monkeys never quite recaptured the manic energy of their debut album, but Alex Turner still had a few memorable hooks up his sleeve, and his lyrics continued to improve, including the witty rhyme here of “rascal” and “Tabasco.”
58. Pinback – “From Nothing To Nowhere.” One of the DJs on XMU loves these guys, which is how I came across this melodic, guitar-heavy track three or four years after it came out. The first time I watched the video, I saw the lead singer and thought, “Hey, is that Tad Doyle?”
57. BT featuring M. Doughty – “Never Gonna Come Back Down.” (video). Yep, that’s Mike Doughty, former lead singer of Soul Coughing and intrepid coverer of Mary J. Blige songs, over a hyper-trance/trip-hop track by Brian Transeau, the DJ who pioneered (and maybe invented) the vocal “stutter” edit.
56. Presidents of the United States of America – “Some Postman.” (video, shot entirely on mobile phone cameras) Never got into their 1990s stuff, when they were one of a dozen snotty faux-punk joke bands (Tripping Daisy, Hagfish) to infect alternative radio, but this one track from their 2004 album Love Everybody hit the mark, telling a funny story instead of throwing out ridiculous lines in search of a laugh. For whatever reason, my iPod loved this song and played it so often in shuffle mode I had to take it off for a few months.
55. Radiohead – “I Might Be Wrong” (video) I didn’t like Amnesiac (a.k.a. Kid B) any more than I liked its predecessor, but the menacing guitar loop on this track would make it the ideal theme song for a Hitchcock film.
54. Starsailor – “Good Souls.” (video) I actually saw these guys live in 2002, so there’s no excuse for forgetting the best song from their debut album, but for some reason I mentally had them pegged in 1999. It’s just a well-constructed song – you don’t notice the great foundation from the bass guitar until it’s alone in the final few measures – reminiscent to me of the slower material on Radiohead’s The Bends. The lead singer kind of looks like Ashton Kutcher, though, doesn’t he?
53. 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 … which is apparently not played on a bass guitar. Clever.
52. Ryan Adams – “New York, New York.” The video and the timing made it an unlikely hit, but I found this to be one of Adams/Whiskeytown’s most accessible or mainstream songs. Speaking of Whiskeytown, “Don’t Be Sad” was recorded in the 1990s but wasn’t released until 2001, so it qualifies through the back door, although it’s a little too folky for me to put on this list.
51. The Darkness – “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.” video) In which The Darkness (who recently reassembled after a brief breakup) unabashedly steal from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that brought us bands like Iron Maiden and Motorhead. Wikipedia – which is never wrong – 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.
50. Doves – “There Goes The Fear.” (video) The highest-charting single for Doves – although the single was released and deleted on the same day, which I’m sure confuses those of you young enough that you don’t remember singles as a physical format – was a nostalgic ode to lost romances and casual drug use with a hypnotic percussion track and some weird jungle whooping in the outro. In other words, it’s awesome.
49. Franz Ferdinand – “The Fallen.” (video) With lines like “Who gives a damn about the profits of Tesco?” it seems like an anthem for the 99%, featuring uptempo music, plenty of wordplay, and the kind of fast-talk-singing that seems a cinch for chart success when it’s pulled off correctly.
48. Jurassic 5 – “What’s Golden.” (video) 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, and a moderate crossover hit thanks in part to its appearance in a soda commercial.
47. Carbon Leaf – “The Boxer.” Done right, rock tinged with Irish folk music is among my favorite styles of music. Talk about an odd connection, though: a not-yet-famous Katy Perry stars in their video for “Learn to Fly.”
46. 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.
45. 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.
44. Stereophonics – “Have A Nice Day.” A slower, folkier song than most of their output, 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. It’s mostly on this list for its hook, though.
43. Coldplay – “Viva La Vida.” So I really don’t get the distaste for these guys. Too popular? Too much ’70s soft-rock influence? Overreaction to the abysmal XY album? Antipathy towards Gwyneth? This song has faded for me the more I listened to it – and it was overplayed, big time, to the point where I needed an escape hatch – but it’s a well-written, ambitious pop song, on an ambitious and rather complete album; even NME, among the most sneering of hipster publications (and I admire them for it), gave the album an 8 out of 10. I’ll go with the XY explanation, because that album was shit.
42. Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye.” So last time around, I called these guys one-hit wonders, and a few readers responded by telling me where “Panic Switch” placed on the charts. Not only was that song just riding the coattails of “Lazy Eye,” I think now with more time since those songs were released, we can agree this is the one still receiving airplay, and this is the only one worth remembering. (Let’s not even talk about “The Royal We.”) Anyway, 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.
41. LCD Soundsystem – “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House.” (video, but of the much shorter single edit) Kind of an alternative novelty hit, but it is catchy enough that I’ve caught myself singing it a few days after hearing it, and the more I listen to it the more I like the way it slowly layers on to that simple opening groove. I’m still waiting for the sequel, “Daft Punk is Playing Settlers of Catan at My House.”
40. The Fratellis – “Chelsea Dagger.” (video). Little did I know when I first heard this about thirteen months ago that it had become a sporting event staple on this side of the pond as well as over in Europe. It’s obnoxious, catchy, and practically puts the damn beer in your hand to wave as you shout along.
39. Spoon – “I Turn My Camera On.” (video). This was just a straight-up omission from the first list, as I knew and liked the song from when it was first released, right before I fell off the music-listening map for almost a full year. I get a lot of early Prince out of this one, without the synths but with that same sideways nod to funk, as well as the falsetto that is de rigueur in any Prince homage.
38. 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. A reader pointed out the similarity between this song and Ride’s “Dreams Burn Down;” I guess I hear it a little in the intro, but I’d probably have to be more of a shoegazing fan to be bothered by it.
37. Matt & Kim – “Daylight.” The best White Stripes song not written or recorded by the White Stripes. The video is aggressively horrible, though not as bad as the video where they strip and walk down the street in broad … um, never mind.
36. 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.
35. 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.”
34. 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.
33. Arcade Fire – “Keep the Car Running.” I didn’t like this album (Neon Bible) save this one song, which will probably remind you a little of Eddie and the Cruisers but in a good way.
32. The Last Shadow Puppets – “Standing Next To Me (album).” (video) Unabashedly retro, right down to their mod outfits and haircuts in the video. This side project of Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) and Miles Kane (the Rascals) gets derivative pretty quickly as you work through the album, but this lead single stands out for a much stronger melody and the wisdom to get in and out in under two and a half minutes, before the novelty wears off.
31. Phoenix – “1901.” (video) The second single from their fourth album, which won the Grammy for Best Alternative Album (a harbinger for Arcade Fire’s bigger victory a year later?), this is probably the most energetic track on the album; after the first two tracks, the disc starts to run together for me, so I generally just listen to those songs by themselves, with the other one appearing further up this list.
30. Mike Doughty – “Looking At The World From The Bottom Of A Well.” (video) An ironically uptempo track inspired by one of my favorite novels, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The whole album, Haughty Melodic (an anagram of “Michael Doughty”), was excellent, although this was clearly the best track. I still miss Soul Coughing.
29. Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy.” Cee-Lo’s “Closet Freak,” from his 2002 solo debut, gets an honorable mention here, too. He can sing, but I think subsequent events made it clear Danger Mouse was the real artistic force behind this collaboration, while Cee-Lo provides the voice and the charisma.
28. Flogging Molly – “Float.” (video) 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; I’m surprised it didn’t become more of a crossover success.
27. 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.
26. Sambassadeur – “Kate.” (video, sort of) 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.
25. Interpol – “Slow Hands.” (video) This was the first Interpol song that didn’t sound to me like a 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.
24. The Stills – “Still In Love Song.” (video or, um, “slidshow”) 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.
23. Arctic Monkeys – “From The Ritz To The Rubble.” (unofficial video) It starts out with a seemingly drunken-rant about getting turned away from a club, then just as the guitars come crashing in it becomes clear that the protagonist may be unreliable as well as clueless. The whole album is excellent with its modern (and more polished) take on early post-punk, but this song hinted at the complexity of which the Monkeys and Alex Turner were capable.
22. Doves – “Words.” (unofficial video) 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.
21. The Soundtrack of Our Lives – “Sister Surround.” (video) 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. The lead singer does look rather like a hobbit, though.
20. Gorillaz – “19-2000 (Soulchild Remix).” (video) 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.,” which already appeared lower on this ranking, but Damian Mendis and Stuart Bradbury’s remix of an otherwise unremarkable song from Gorillaz’ debut has been on my main playlist since I first entered the digital music player world six or seven years ago.
19. Hot Chip – “Over And Over.” The video makes even less sense than the song, but good luck getting either out of your head. If you didn’t get the “bunting runners over and over/like a monkey with a miniature cymbal” joke I made during the World Series, it’s from a line in this electronic song, named the best track of 2006 by NME. Apparently the song is a response to critics who said the band was too laid-back, as well as a reference to a Danish post-punk/dance group called Laidback of whom I’d never heard before seeing this stuff in Wikipedia (which is never wrong).
18. 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.
17. The Klaxons – “Golden Skans.” (video) Nu-rave died fast, yet the Klaxons, one of its leading lights, lived on. I’m not sure I could compare this to any other song – it lives at a weird intersection of rave, rock, and experimental acts like King Crimson with its accents on off beats and a bass line that seems to exist in conflict with the rest of the song.
15. OK Go – “Get Over It” (video) Another omission from the first list for which I have no good excuse. They became more pop-friendly as time went on, while this shows more of their hard-rock/punk roots, with fabulously obnoxious lyrics and a funny video that emphasizes the song’s wordplay. But why the ping-pong scene?
14. Queens of the Stone Age – “The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret.” (video) “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, an early sign of Josh Homme’s tremendous ability to graft perfect hooks on to stoner-rock backdrops. (And no, I’m not a fan of “Feel-Good Hit of the Summer.”) True story: I first heard this song on MTV2 in August of 2001, followed immediately by the first time I heard Nickelback’s “This is How You Remind Me” – a great high reuined by an immediate kick in the groin.
13. Phoenix – “Lisztomania.” (video) I left Phoenix off the original list because this album was so recently released that I didn’t feel like I’d had enough time to consider the songs, but this and “1901” haven’t lost anything now that they’re two-plus years past their release date.
12. The Dandy Warhols – “Bohemian Like You.” (video – very NSFW) A bit forgotten as the music scene changed over the course of the decade, but it’s a catchy song dripping with snark that makes fun of hipsters before it was cool to make fun of hipsters.
11. Groove Armada – “My Friend.” (video) Built on one of the all-time great samples, from the Fatback Band’s “Got To Learn How To Dance,” which also backs up Kool G Rap & DJ Polo’s “Streets of New York.”
10. Crystal Method – “Name Of The Game.” (video) 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. Calling all freaks.
9. Outkast – “Hey Ya!.” The best Prince song by an artist other than Prince – but not the top Prince homage on this list.
8. Manchester Orchestra – “I’ve Got Friends.” (video) The singers are nothing alike, but Manchester Orchestra reminds me strongly in their one-step-from-the-abyss approach to alternative rock and lyrical alienation of early Radiohead. Not to be confused with the OneRepublic song of a similar name, which should be banned on the grounds that it makes my ears bleed.
7. Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out.” Requires no explanation, I assume.
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.
4. Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.” (live video) 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. Muse – “Supermassive Black Hole.” Yet another Prince homage, reimagined through an alternative-rock lens. I liked Muse’s first album, Showbiz, released in 1999, but after that found them increasingly pop-oriented even as their music became more bloated with layers of instrumentation. But “Supermassive Black Hole” was such a departure from their usual material, a rare example where their over-the-top showmanship helped the song play up instead of down, with a funk-tinged groove behind the requisite falsetto vocal. This song is the most egregious omission from the first list; I simply hadn’t heard it, not when it came out, not until late in 2010. That period from late 2005 till the fall of 2006 was just a void for me, between changing jobs, becoming a father, and enduring probably the longest period of depression of my life; I shut down and missed out not just on art but on an incredibly important time for my family. And, worst of all, I wasn’t even aware I was depressed – my memories of the period are simply shrouded in fog. Um, anyway, this is a great song.
2. Kaiser Chiefs – “I Predict A Riot.” (video) 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.