The turn of the century may have begun with a glut of Toploader and Travis-shaped banality, but by 2002 a new wave of talent had changed everything. First came The Strokes and The White Stripes; The Libertines soon followed dragging a whole heap of Arcadian fantasists with them while, through the rest of the decade, more brilliant bands than you can shake a skinny jean-clad leg at followed suit. Whether you're Team Foals, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs or other - here are the decade's finest offerings.

Words: Tim Chester, Ash Dosanjh, Priya Elan, Jamie Fullerton, Tom Goodwyn, Matthew Horton, Luke Lewis, Hamish MacBain, James McMahon, Emily Mackay, David Moynihan, Krissi Murison, Ben Patashnik, Martin Robinson, Rebecca Schiller, Alan Woodhouse, Matt Wilkinson

100'Apply Some Pressure'

With this, Maximo Park showed they can do rollicking pop songs as flexible and captivating as Paul Smith’s crotch. It’s the rather marvellous keyboard riff that’s the key here, one which hooks you into the main thrust of the song without making too much of a big deal about ‘going electro’. You can’t help but think it was written with Paul Smith’s drum-rise leaps in mind, such is the way it repeatedly quietens then explodes into life, which is probably the best approach to songwriting you can have. The Maximo Park song even the naysayers have to begrudgingly appreciate.

99‘Do You Realize??’

Do you realize, everyone you know some day will die .” Not an obvious idea to present in a pop song, but it worked incredibly well in this highpoint from The Flaming Lips’ ‘Yoshimi…’. Presented as a sweet, necessary reminder of mortality required in order for you to truly appreciate your life and the people around you, it married space-age sonics with heartfelt emotion without being cheesy. The Flaming Lips live experience is this song writ large, joy at life taken to transcendent levels, though always with the knowledge that death is close. It's also fun if you want to see a man in tweed bounce about in a big plastic ball.

98‘Irish Blood, English Heart’

Morrissey’s truly great ‘comeback’ song, a stirring little nationalistic drama which comes across as impassioned rather than bombastic. It heralded the new barrel-chested, gladiatorial Morrissey, who was soon seen brandishing a tommygun on the cover of his ‘You Are the Quarry’ album. The revolutionary spirit was burning strong in him at this stage, a man angrily wishing to reclaim the heart of his nation so he can stand by the flag, “not feeling shameful, racist, or partial.” Controversy's never far behind Moz, but here his sentiments were expressed in the most strident rock'n'roll terms.

97‘Round Round’

Probably one of Xenomania’s most perfect tracks, ‘Round Round’ is mean, it’s taut, it’s sexy and it’s awesome. Preceding ‘Sound Of The Underground’ by several months, it never falls into the slightly nudge-nudge Carry On ‘knowing’ territory that Girls Aloud often do – Sugababes were by far the cooler proposition. The chugging, locomotive introduction and whip-smart rhythms are totally dancefloor irresistible and the classic Destiny’s Child you-ain’t-all-that lyrics (“I don’t need no man, got my kicks for free”) perfectly nonchalant, in the days when they could still draw on Mutya’s sultry drawl.


They’re not normally noted for their emotionalism, Crystal Castles, so much as for their shrieking, bleeping, sulking and bottling. Compare, though, the original track on HEALTH’s debut album with Ethan Kath’s reworked version and it's amazing how it subtly smoothes a jagged, brutalist and tortured thing into a melancholy, gently blooping and squelching, 8-bit mooch of some beauty, bringing the soft fear in Jake Duszik’s actually rather lovely voice to the fore. Also, I was rather delighted when I found out he actually was singing “nice breasts” and it wasn’t just my dirty ears playing tricks on me.

95‘All These Things That I’ve Done’

The Killers truly touch greatness on this stirring, huge-hooked, last-song-of-the-night monster. The final refrain of “I got soul but I’m not a soldier” is a meaningless phrase when you think about it, but when you’re yelling it in a field along with thousands of people while your seventh pill of the night is threatening to change your sex, it can feel pretty powerful. It manages to pull off that early U2 trick of being both a misty-eyed call of romantic defiance, and a song you can bounce around to with your mates.

94‘My Girls’

The fact that Animal Collective are to blogging what the electric guitar was to rock and roll music is not their fault. Yeah, loads of idiots like to write a load of nonsense about them in corners of the web that no one with any semblance of a life ever visits, but ultimately, stripped of any context, songs such as the taster for ‘Merriweather Post Pavillion’ exhibit a band who trade in come one, come all euphoro-rave. It would be a tragedy if they were remembered for being merely ‘a blog band’, rather than what they actually are, which is simply an incredible band.


Debut smashes don't come with much more swagger and bombast than The Big Pink's breakthrough did. Constructed around a skyscraper-sized beat, the track's lyrics might be cruder than the bits that were deemed too rude for Viz magazine, but it's still stupidly catchy and hummable, as proved when Nicki Minaj's underwhelming re-telling of the hook still left you singing along. They're going to have trouble topping this with album number two.


When the svengali of Cash’s reinvention Rick Rubin contacted Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor to request if the country legend could cover the song on Rubin’s suggestion, Reznor, replied that he was ‘flattered’ but concerned it’d be ‘gimmicky’. Upon viewing the video, he relented the song was no longer his. The stark, desolate sorrow of the original was translated into harrowing, minimal balladry by the Man In Black. When he died later that year it instantly became a chilling serenade to his fan’s mourning, worldwide.

91‘Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above’

Predating the onslaught of lame leggings and skin-burning cracked glow-sticks, CSS’ breakthrough hit did everything you never even knew you wanted from a hit of mid-Noughties indie-disco. The winning recipe of naïve flirtiness, shuffling spacey infectiousness and surprising and irreverent NME-culture references put the spotlight on Sao Paolo in a way pop culture hadn’t seen for some time. As nu rave took hold it became one of the most incendiary sure-fire dancefloor bangers at lektro discos across the world.

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