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

40‘Gold Digger’

‘The College Dropout’ was a thrilling enough mix of myth-making and speeded up soul samples but it didn’t have a peak like this. Kanye returned in 2005 with an unabashed pop song, making inspired use of Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles turn before sampling the great man himself, and bleeding his wit dry with a bottomless pit of quotable lines. Now he’s a compelling blend of braggadocio and woe-is-me, it’s good to remember the party-starting satirist.

39‘Sound Of The Underground’

The hangover of conveyor-belt comedy-awful manufactured pap was still prominent in everyone’s minds in 2002. Who’d have thought it would take the puppeteering of Louis Walsh on the back of Popstars: The Rivals to reignite people’s imaginations at pop’s possibilities? The key catalyst at play here was the chap responsible for that weird vocoder effect on Cher’s ‘Believe’. Helmed by Brian Higgins, production house Xenomania would steer ‘proper pop music’ on course to become one of the defining buzz trends of the Noughties with a trend-bucking all-inclusive manifesto approach to their sound palette.

38‘The Cedar Room’

The longest song on Doves’ mesmerising debut album ‘Lost Souls’ represents the true essence of what this most unassumingly special of British bands are all about. A constant live favourite, it creeps along at a lovely, stoned pace, ever so slowly evolving into a classic piece of colourful psychedelia that even the most addled of ’60s acid-heads would be immensely proud of. They made much more concise, accessible pop records than this throughout their careers, but never have Jimi Goodwin’s lot sounded as mesmerizingly beautiful as they do here. A dark, brooding, slice of 6am perfection that takes you to places you need to go.

37‘Alice Practice’

The reason so many journalists rubbed their sweaty plans together with glee at the prospect of stringing adjectives together over these two Canadian ex-metallers-turned-8-bit-circuit-benders, was because pop music had never had anything quite like it in its midst. Of all the images conjured, that of ‘battery acid rain falling on a playground full of school children’ seems to go some way to coining the noise of their debut single. The second release on the now-revered Merok imprint, people said that it was the closest thing the Noughties had witnessed to a punk-esque happening, and they weren’t wrong.

36‘Get Ur Freak On’

Who’s that bitch?” Missy asked rhetorically on her greatest single, before answering, “People you know/Me and Timbaland been hot since 20 years ago.” While their prowess as pre-teens could not be confirmed or denied, one thing was for sure: this bass-less cocktail of off kilter bongo beats, synth strings and weird noises was a high point for one of the greatest, most forward thinking songwriting partnerships of modern times. Miles more inventive than anything any of the more 'experimental' acts of the time managed, Missy ‘n’ Tim’s finest hour was also brimming with more fun and attitude than anyone else around, too.

35‘One Armed Scissor’

Perhaps the most significant thing 'One Armed Scissor' did upon its release in 2000 was to reinvigorate legions of music fans utterly despondent with new bands. Just like Primal Scream's 'XTRMNTR' was doing for UK music at the same time, At The Drive-In proved that US rock bands didn't have to be offensively cheesy (Blink-182), inoffensively bland (Nickelback), offensively offensive (Limp Bizkit) or just plain shit (Linkin Park). Afros aside, they also helped pave the way for the likes of The Strokes by showing that a guitar could still be so much more than the tool of choice for baseball cap-wearing wankers the world over.

34‘Hate To Say I Told You So’

There was little not to love about The Hives when they first burst into public consciousness. The matching uniforms, the fat dude with a moustache on guitar, the Mick Jagger-on-Sunny Delight moves of frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist and visceral, no-nonsense garage rock nuggets such as this, their most popular song. The criticisms that they only had one or two great songs missed the point entirely: as anyone at all familiar with ’60s garage will tell you, most of the great bands only had a couple of great moments. That’s kind of the whole point!

33‘No One Knows’

There’s an argument that the QOTSA line up of Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl is the most powerful line up of any rock group of the modern age… including Them Crooked Vultures. Judging by this cut from 'Songs For The Deaf', you can see why: growling, prowling and downright sexy, it nails the band's knack for creating gargantuan heavy rock monsters while still retaining some swaggering sass. No one does it like Queens.

32‘Empire State Of Mind’

The funniest thing about this song is that Katy Perry, bless her, actually believes that ‘California Gurls’ is some kind of Westside riposte to it. Smashing as she and Snoop’s ode to “Daisy dukes, bikinis on top” is, the heat of that wig is clearly going to the poor lassie’s head. So colossal you can’t even see the top, ‘Empire State…’ was the song of at least two summers. You can drop it on any dance floor, at any time and be an absolute, instant hero. Somehow it manages to make everyone a New Yorker, if only for a few minutes. Jay’s rhyme’s are casually, relaxedly brilliant, riffing off De Niro, Sinatra, the Yankees, dropping street names and social analysis, while Alicia bawls for her life in the choruses, She hardly needed to tell us to “get your lighters in the air” really.


Hey, remember when Bloc Party didn’t suck balls to an almost ludicrous degree? This is a prime cut from their golden era, all paranoid post-punk thrusting and ice-cool stabs of melody, and could be their finest hour. It helped that Kele was singing about the demons that populated the darkest corners of his mind, because that gave ‘Banquet’ a depth no one really expected of Bloc Party, and which means it retains its relevance and brilliance years after its initial release.

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