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

90‘The Real Slim Shady’

What a way to kick off the new millennium this was. It was vulgar, offensive, and it tore into just about everyone. From Pamela and Tommy Lee to Britney Spears, no one was off limits. Eminem didn’t give a shit and he told it like it was, and this one skyrocketed him into getting his first single to top the chart in the UK. Here’s to the coolest song to reference the Discovery Channel (besides The Bloodhound Gang).


‘Modern Guilt’ was a short, often sonically meandering and lyrically baffling kind of an album, and its preview track was no exception. By this point Beck had more than settled into his role as one of America’s most chameleonic, constantly compelling performers, and on this he delivered a mantra of conspiracy theorist paranoia that only served to intrigue us all even further. His beautiful falsetto here sits beautifully over an elastic bassline, propulsive drums and some marvellously intricate production courtesy of Danger Mouse. Quite simply: this was one of the finest pieces of music Beck has made in this or any other decade.

88‘Sea Within A Sea’

When The Horrors emerged in 2006 as gothically themed garage rockers, hype quickly gave way to backlash. The darlings of Southend’s Junk Club scene were dismissed as one-trick ponies, and poor sales of 2007 debut album ‘Strange House’ cost them their major-label deal. When they returned in 2009, they were unrecognisable. Mesmeric comeback single ‘Sea Within A Sea’ ran to seven minutes instead of the customary two, featured Faris Badwan singing instead of screeching, and mined a new influence: the smooth, pulsing dream-rock of Can and Neu!. The stage was set for 'Primary Colours' – and The Horrors' ascent to greatness.

87‘O Katrina!’

It wasn't until Vice Records released 'Good Bad Not Evil' in the UK in 2007 that Atlanta dirt-rockers Black Lips came to wide(ish) public attention in Blighty, but the shove couldn't have been heralded better than by their greatest song – the moody, brooding yet rip-throat raucous 'O Katrina!'. With a bass intro more hummy than a beehive, the song soon explodes into a clatter that personifies their cut-loose personalities perfectly, while when played live they morph it into a stretched blues haze that gives it a whole new psychedelic life of its own.

86‘Spanish Sahara’

Whereas Foals’ debut, ‘Antidotes’, was packed full with strange, vaguely math-ish constructions, like a spiky game of Tetris, the introduction to its follow-up, ‘Total Life Forever’, gaped like a hole in the heart. It’s sparse, deathly chilling and emotionally naked – Yannis sings rather than barks, and whilst the lyrics are hardly explicit, his order, or invitation – “Forget the horror here” – bears an alluringly universal resonance.


What a track. From the opening choir-like vocals and slamming piano chords, a sound like screaming children and warm, rolling bassline, it's clear that this is no ordinary song. "I wanna get in the sunlight" sings frontman Chris Keating as the music ascends into a blur of Middle Eastern-influenced, psychedelia-infused, whirling, trippy, gospel goodness. Hailing from – where else? – Brooklyn, the band released their critically-acclaimed debut 'All Hour Cymbals' in 2007, before touring with MGMT in 2008 as the 'psychAmerica' sound spread like a spilt lava lamp. Look out for the new album 'Odd Blood' in 2010, with the equally-as-great track 'Ambling Alp' already being played by the band at live shows and providing a thrilling teaser of what's to come.

84‘Bad Cover Version’

They only released one album this decade (2001's 'We Love Life'), and this was its best track. The lyric is one of Jarvis Cocker's finest, pointing out that there's no substitute for feeling real love by way of pointing out a number of popular cultural landmarks gone rotten (the Stones in The '80s, Tom & Jerry when they could talk and, cheekily, album producer Scott Walker's ''Til The Band Comes In' album). Oh, and it had a great 'Band Aid' parody video where Jarvis played Brian May.

83‘Independent Women Part 1’

Cast your mind back to 2000 and Beyoncé was the one in Destiny's Child who had something, well… a bit special about her. Ostensibly a trio, it was clear that Beyoncé was the leader of the pack. But what a pack they formed: Beyoncé, plus sidekicks Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, were every bit as bold and beautiful as the 'Charlie's Angels' whose film this song provided the soundtrack for. "The watch I'm wearing – I bought it. The house I live in – I bought it" declared the singers. The only irony, of course, being the fact that the 'independent women' of the film reported to the ever-so-boringly-male boss Charlie. Not that that fact stopped women everywhere from relishing the empowering lyrics as the song hogged the US top spot for a massive 11 weeks and repeated its smash-hit success at Number One in the UK, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.

82‘Sex On Fire’

It's become a bit of a drive-time, FM-rock cliché – which is strange, because 'Sex On Fire' is really quite a filthy song, describing a shag so mind-bendingly amazing, it's almost a bit scary ("Knuckles are pale, feels like you're dying…"). Caleb Followill didn't think much of it at first, he didn't want to include it on 'Only By The Night', but he was convinced otherwise. Just as well – it became KOL's biggest hit by miles, rubber-banding them into the mainstream, to the point where, distressingly, even The X Factor's Jamie Afro covered it.

81‘Hope There's Someone’

It seems strange now, but in 2005, no one knew quite what the fuck to make of Antony Hegarty. Part Nina Simone, part Boy George (with a splash of Robert Smith and Alison Moyet lobbed in for a laugh), he was a jazz diva on one hand and a 6ft 4in transgendered lost child on the other. No wonder we were confused. What was obvious to everyone was that Antony was a unique talent and a master of refined melancholy. This is intense, desperate and, like the wine you're probably necking while boo-hooing along to it, gets better with age.

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