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

60‘Us’

Though it was ‘Fidelity’ and ‘On The Radio’ from 2006’s ‘Begin To Hope’ that brought Regina Spektor wider success, it was at the expense of some of the rougher edges on her preceding album, ‘Soviet Kitsch’, a bizarre, intimate and idiosyncratic record in which the sweetness of her piano-led ballads is tempered by a raw weirdness. ‘Us’, in which the tousle-mopped little nutter imagines having a statue of her and her boyfriend being raised in the town square with all kinds of disastrous consequences, is powered by a rushing, urgent chorus and her distinctive staccato vocal: “contagious-us-us-us...”. Remastered and rereleased as a single from the ‘Mary Ann Meets The Gravediggers’ comp in 2006, it remains a fan favourite.

59‘Evil’

The lead-off single and high-point of Interpol’s second album, this has a typically obtuse Paul Banks lyric (“Make revision to a dream while you wait in the van”) only somehow even worse (“Sensitive to faith not”? Bad grammar does not necessarily load things with meaning, Mr Banks). What’s remarkable about this song is that this drivel doesn’t matter one bit. It’s a perfectly weighted soul-searcher through the music alone, which pauses and explodes into life exquisitely, bringing poignancy and drama even when you’re having to sing along with clunking chorus lines like, “Saying meanwhile can’t we look the other way.” Scariest video of all time, too.

58‘Everything In Its Right Place’

The moment where Radiohead finally left behind the limitations of being an alt.rock band and embraced a whole wide world of weirdness that made ‘alt’ seem as silly a word as it was. The opening track of ‘Kid A’ took their fans further out than they’d ever been before, dabbling in Warp-style electronica, minimalism and all manner of glitchy creepiness. Thom Yorke’s no longer just singing about "unborn chicken voices", as on ‘Paranoid Android’, they seem to have infected his brain and chatter around him in the weirdly hymnal dreamscape of ambient keys.

57‘One Day Like This’

The rise of Manchester five-piece Elbow from relative unknowns into one of the biggest bands in the UK may have been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Sourcing them a whole new generation of fans, as well as landing them with a Mercury Music Prize for ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, ‘One Day Like This’, with its choral chanting and orchestral extravagance, proved so uplifting and inspiring that it’s hardly surprising it’s been used to soundtrack a million sporting TV montages - or that it nabbed them an Ivor Novello for best song in 2009.

56‘Dreaming Of You’

Take the insanely-young genius of James Skelly (just 21-years old when he wrote the track), add the veteran know-how of producer Ian Broudie (of The Lightning Seeds fame), and the results speak for themselves. The Coral’s debut album stunned like a cattle-prod on its release in 2002, such was its vitality and the wide-ranging sources for its unique sound. Country, 1960s psychedelia, sea shanties, The Doors, folk and more feed into the eclectic masterpiece that was voted the 4th best album of the year by NME. Admittedly, the track isn’t a million miles from The Supremes’ ‘My World Is Empty Without You’, but it wears its heart – and influences – on its sleeve.

55‘Islands’

A nocturnal proclamation of love (that veers into dangerous co-dependent territory) this was The xx’s finest moment thus far; a simple, effective take on dark, nocturnal love action. As guitars twirls like dance floor partners in the background, Olly and Romy skirt around their loyalty (“I am yours now, so I don’t ever have to leave,” they sing) sounding half in love, half bewitched by Stockholm Syndrome. The synths play like a musical shadow in the background: doomy specters, ominous preludes of what’s to come and what’s waiting at the end of the honeymoon period.

54‘Chicago’

The standout track from the classic 'Illinois' album, 'Chicago' is on a concept album about the state it exists in, but isn't really about the city, more about a road trip Sufjan had taken with his friend. No matter, its string-laden majesty was truly a thing of wonder. And even Snow Patrol referencing it on their 2006 song 'Hands Open' couldn't diminish its beauty.

53‘Time For Heroes’

"There are fewer more distressing sights, than that, of an Englishman in a baseball cap" sang Pete Doherty in an inch-perfect lyric from this anthemic indie classic inspired by London’s violent May Day riots. The third single from The Libertines’ debut album ‘Up The Bracket’, it was yet another wake-up slap in the face for anyone who thought that British indie rock was dormant after the heady days of Britpop. A post-punk slice of perfection, it’s also imbued with the spirit of The Clash in more than just its influences, thanks to production from the legendary Mick Jones.

52‘In For The Kill’

In a world in which everyone and their dog was doing the 80s, Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid pulled off the feat of making something which sounded attached to that decade but which also sounded authentic and effortless. The key seemed to be the duo’s set up, whereby Elly’s lyrics - schooled in Joni Mitchell’s academy of the confessional - and her weird, falsetto vocal style bounced off Ben’s multi-tracked electronic backing brilliantly. The result was a lovelorn classic that, although haunted by the ghosts of Depeche Mode and Erasure, stood on its own thanks to the duo’s uncluttered alchemy.

51‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’

At the peak of their powers with 2001’s ‘Discovery’, everything the duo did sounded so damn effortless. Their robo-personas were put into full effect as they intoned the Presbyterian work ethic of the lyrics, slowly going out of their tiny, worker ant minds as the words became disjointed and rotten by the climax of the track. The music shuffled along with a snappy groove, echoing the non-stop nature of the lyrics. Kanye would later re-visit the track on his own ‘Stronger’, but the effect was nowhere near as compelling as Daft Punk’s bold and futuristic original.

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