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

20‘Over And Over’

The second silver bullet (along with 'Boy From School') in the Putney electro-popsters' synapse-ruffling live set, 'Over And Over' is simply one of the biggest stone-cold bangers of all time. Play the understated jingly riff that opens the song at any gathering of more than two people and you've instantly got a party you'd skip your dog's funeral to attend – for at least those five minutes. The first single from the band's second (and first for a major label) album, 'The Warning', 'Over And Over' was the moment that the lo-fi bedroom nerds became the biggest party-starters since Daft Punk.


'In Rainbows'' finest moment had actually been around for several years before its 2007 release. Although the early incarnation of the song bore scant resemblance to its finished state, the band apparently liked Jonny Greenwood's instrumental part so much that they decided to turn it into an entirely new track, but keep the same title. What 'Reckoner' does so effortlessly is show that Radiohead can still be masters of subtle, guitar-based songwriting. Thom Yorke has rarely sounded as soothing, and with the band's superb off-kilter playing seeming ever so slightly out of step, the song is one of the most captivating of their career.

18‘Ms Jackson’

Chart-melting US hip-hop anthems invariably feature bonnet-busting beats, shotgun sound effects and a general tone of bigging up oneself. But one of the biggest hip-hop anthems of the decade, from Andre 3000 and Big Boi, was a very different beast indeed. BB's Uzi-fire rapping cut against Dre's feline croon perfectly over shuffling beats and heart-string piano as the pair laid out one side of the story of a custody battle between Dre and his ex, Erykah Badu. Hardly the normal subject matter of your usual block-raising hip-hop smash – but then OutKast are hardly your average hip-hop act.


Written as a tribute to Karen O's then boyfriend (Angus Andrew of Liars), 'Maps' managed to do the near impossible - lyrically fixating on the trials of being separated while on tour (poor rock stars) yet making it sound like a universal paean to heartache and romance. The "They don't love you like I love you" hook in the chorus is so tender it could make a pitbull well up. Bless.


There are many puzzling things about this song, which was originally written for Britney Spears but rejected by her label. First, how is it that such a daft, stuttered lyric ("Umbrella-ella-ella") can sound so serious and epic? And second, how is Rihanna able to sing in such a cold and impassive voice, yet make the song sound so weirdly moving? The slick production makes it superficially an R&B track, but the chorus is so toweringly great it transcends genre boundaries. Perhaps that's why it's been covered by everyone from My Chemical Romance to Manic Street Preachers.


It’s not just that Yeah Yeah Yeahs managed to outsmart Radio 1’s profanity censors with ‘Bang’ and its downright rude lyrics: “As a fuck son, you sucked” and "The bigger the better”. Or that Karen O is a phenomenal frontwoman, or that Nick Zinner is a guitar maverick that makes them so great. It’s that this New York trio broke through the barrage of indie boy band pap with this single to bring excitement, intelligence and unadulterated fun to a genre noted only for its lacklustre approach to pushing things forward. That Yeah Yeah Yeahs have succeeded in defying the status quo with each and every release since this explosive debut is to their credit.

14‘Seven Nation Army’

Jack and Meg White became proper bona fide megastars on the back of this song, propelled by arguably the finest riff of the decade by anyone. Its popularity was such that football fans the world over continue to adapt the refrain to make their own particular chant. High praise indeed. Named after what Jack called the Salvation Army as a child, the song is now recognised as a proper, grade A classic. Recorded in London for about two pence, it still sounds amazing.

13‘The Rat’

Sometimes a band unleash a song so staggeringly, elementally powerful, the rest of their career can only be a let-down. Like The Strokes gone evil, this clattering cut from the New York band's second album showcased the apoplectic vocals of Hamilton Leithauser, propelled by a relentless backbeat that owed much to krautrock. A maelstrom of finger-pointing rage ("You've got a nerve…"), this astonishing track represented the rancorous dark side of the New York indie-rock explosion.

12‘Dry Your Eyes’

The song which took Mike Skinner to the summit of the UK singles chart was a surprisingly tender, blokeish lament to lost love, but it only really took off when the lyrics were amended to lament the England football team's exit from that year's Euro 2004. The track is the emotional high point of 2004's magnificent concept record 'A Grand Don't Come For Free', and will surely be the one most remember Skinner for.

11‘Can’t Stand Me Now’

The lead-off track from their second album showcased The Libertines' gift for combining high romance with scuffed, gutter-level realism. Hence we get the deft poetry of the first verse ("Your light fingers through the dark…") punctured by the viciousness of the second: "The world kicked back a lot fuckin' harder". Like all the best Libertines songs, this tale of an unravelling relationship can be read as a statement on the band's own imminent collapse ("Have we enough to keep it together?") – though, surprisingly, it wasn't all their own work. The middle-eight was penned by Pete and Carl's partner-in-debauchery, Mark Keds of early-'90s indie grafters the Senseless Things.

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