A quick note: Bands can only appear in this list once. This is mainly because, if I didn’t apply some limitations, I would probably have just copied and pasted the whole tracklist for Origin of Symmetry in here.
20. DLZ – TV on the Radio (2008)
The darkest and most aggressive track from their phenomenal ‘Dear Science’ album, which laments the dire consequences on 21st century life of a rampant marching modernity dominated by reason and objectivity . The figurative lyricism is simply sublime, as they remark on how it’s “beginning to feel like the bolt’s busted loose from the lever”, “the dog’s lost his lead” and there’s a “barely controlled locomotive consuming the picture and blowing the crows to smoke”.
19. Daft Punk is Playing At My House – LCD Soundsystem (2005)
A delightfully happy party track about a proud host who is watching his party bloom into a truly happening one, with more and more people arriving and Daft Punk pumping out from his soundsystem. His enthusiasm is a joy to behold, even as he sees “a big fight brewing at my house, my house” and, in a line I thought was true for a long time, he sees that “everybody’s peeing at my house, my house” (it’s actually, “I’ve got everybody’s PA at my house). Whatever. I grin with glee every single time.
18. Bandages – Hot Hot Heat (2003)
If its inspired lyricism you’re after then look no further than this bizarre track of buoyant and bandaged mania. It’s a gloriously off the rails romp about a rather damaged individual with his own particularly twisted relationship axe to grind. I’ll let possibly my favourite lines of all time speak for themselves: “I’ve been hoping and moping around the streets again. I’ve been tripping from sipping the dripping dirty water tap. I’ve been poking a voodoo doll that you do not know I made… for you… of you… let’s see what needles do!” Genius!!
17. House of Jealous Lovers – The Rapture (2003)
It hasn’t been many years since The Rapture emerged on the scene from Liverpool, thrashing out this edgy, guitar-dance racket, but it has already accrued the feel of a classic. Coming soaring in on a sea of screams it’s a hustling, wailing, reckless ball of energy that insists not only on your most devout attention but also that you throw obscenely erratic shapes while you do so. A revolution in dance-rock. And already the second track in my top 20 to include cowbells. I guess you could say I’m partial.
16. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service (2003)
An utterly beautiful, elevating slice of electro-pop majesty from Ben Gibbard’s (of Death Cab for Cutie) side project. Never has a track name been more appropriate. It glides effortlessly through your ears and tenderly wraps itself around your mind like the most gorgeous blanket you’ve ever owned. I mean, it’s got to be pretty good to be the most listened to track ever on LastFm, the online music site. In a word? Exquisite.
15. Atlas – Battles (2007)
A song that quite simply has to be heard to be believed. But how best to describe it? Hmm… how about this… It’s an epic 7 minute circus performance, with a manic robotic chipmunk as ringleader, that stomps its way through the perimeters of your perception with devastating and unwieldy force, then goes scrambling through the insides of a dense maze of electrical circuitry, before emerging triumphant in a shower of sparks and amid a mass of sensory scraping bleeps. What the fuck was I just on about? I haven’t the foggiest idea. But it makes about as much sense as this song.
14. Hate to Say I told you so – The Hives (2001)
Like the tiny 28 minute album it heralds from, ‘You’re New Favourite Band’, this song comes across as a loud, fast, dumb but absurdly stimulating blast of Scandinavian indie punk. There’s not much in the way of intricate layering or technical musicianship on show here. It does exactly what it says on the tin. The riff is fun, catchy and in-your-face and the lyrics, if you can get through the warring din of sound, packs sharper wit than most Ricky Gervais sketches. Don’t believe me? That’s alright. The Hives don’t care. They’re “ignored by the stiff and the bored” because they wanna.
13. Idea Track – Idlewild (2000)
The key “idea” track off their oft neglected but highly imaginative album ‘100 Broken Windows’, this song, for me, is Idlewild at the peak of their postmodernism purporting powers. It’s more lyrically subtle than most other tracks from that album (“Don’t be real, be postmodern” being the most glaringly direct example from the otherwise excellent track ‘These Wooden Ideas’), as it switches its attention to the construction and substance of the song itself. It’s not actually about anything but they “pretend it works awhile” and don’t really care that they “don’t have an idea… track”. Which is exactly where they’re wrong because, as it happens, it’s a brilliantly realised idea… track.
12. Rebellion (Lies) – The Arcade Fire (2005)
The highest point on an album practically stoked to exploding with high points. Guided by Win Butler’s aching and wizened voice it picks you up and sweeps you along with him and his Canadian cohorts, using such lines of encouragement as “sleeping is giving in, so lift those heavy eyelids”, as it builds with an assuring ease towards a booming chorus of “Every time you close your eyes, lies! Lies!” and a chord change that has me gulping back my awe every time. Seeing it performed live was like receiving an epiphany from the Gods. Have I over-hyped this one too much dya think? It only came 12th after all.
11. Dance Commander – Electric Six (2003)
I can never tire of hearing this track. It’s a fiery dance-rock explosion, set alight by Dick Valentine’s growling, prowling voice that demands to “get this party started…er, RIGHT!!” It’s a furiously paced, mighty rocket that has its sighters trained on all budding party revellers and damn well ensures that it achieves its raucous shindig objectives. The guitar snaps and wails and the crowd claps and hails their dance commander, for attending to their every merry-making delight… at least, that’s what goes on in my head when I hear this song.
10. Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003)
Without question the most sensitively moving song this decade has had the good grace to produce. Karen O delivers a masterclass in finely honed emotion, drawing the listener in with her softly sensational delivery and making them one with her in her despair, as her strained but astonishing voice fashions touching pleas that claw with a forlorn desperation at a relationship all but over. “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you…” Powerful stuff indeed.
9. I Predict a Riot – Kaiser Chiefs (2005)
This song from Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs came out during my first year of university in Leeds and is as good a way as any for summing up the messy, mental but absolutely fan-bloody-tastic year I had. Going down the Cockpit on a Friday night, clambering with immense difficulty onto the raised dancefloor platforms and drunkenly screaming “I PREDICT A RIOT!!” at the top of my tiny lungs across the ecstatic rioting crowd, sometimes when it wasn’t even on, amounted to one of the best times of my young life.
8. Not a Crime – Gogol Bordello (2005)
Only whatever crazy, pagan God Eugene Hutz and his ragtag collection of gypsy punks worship knows what the hell they’re ranting on about that wasn’t a crime in the old times during this song. But then I have a feeling we probably don’t really want to know either. What I do know is that this is an insane, ridiculous and infectiously enjoyable celebration of a song that races by at breakneck speed, along frenzied stutters of acoustic guitar, dizzying ripples of fiddle and boisterous chanting of “NOT A CRIME!” and “DROP THE CHARGES!” I hope the gypsy punk revolution swings by my way some day coz I’m sure as hell joining that party.
7. Son et Lumiere / Inertiatic Esp – The Mars Volta (2003)
Ok, so I’ve broken the rules ever so slightly with this entry. These are technically two tracks. But essentially they are the same one, for one is just not complete without the other. ‘Son et Lumiere’ is a mere minute long and is absolutely necessary for the stunning kick-in of ‘Inertiatic Esp’. And wow, is it a stunning kick-in. What a way for Mars Volta to slam into life on the back of the At the Drive-In break-up, with this explosion of bombastic inventiveness, splintered with blistering interludes of shredding guitar and spectacular, virtuoso crashes of drums. One of the best moments of any song ever comes right near the end, when the drum hits batter down in obliterating response to the deftly delivered twinges of guitar. Just awesome.
6. My Coco – Stellastarr* (2003)
I find the general ignorance to Stellastarr*’s dazzling self-titled debut album a constant bafflement. It hasn’t a weak track among ten and ‘My Coco’ is the pick of the bunch. The chugging guitars spiral and plummet around the catchy hooks of Shawn Christenson’s resounding, oddball yelps (which incorporate lots of joyous co-co-cos and oh-oh-ohs), reaching its pinnacle in a mounting, rushing solo mid-song, which sonically ascends towards the highest peaks of the guitar fretboard. A mood-lifter like no other. Although the singer does entertain some curiously warped dreams about his coco; “On an island far away, lemonade me my Cococo”. Erm, right… just file this one under ‘happy’.
5. Everything in its Right Place – Radiohead (2000)
Maybe the most momentous track in Radiohead’s rather momentous back-catalogue, due largely to the fact that this is the moment Thom Yorke and co breathed life into their thrumming new brain child, Kid A, and so everything, well, slotted rightly into place. The profound droning of electronica plunges deep into your consciousness, slipping through with a soothing simplicity that soaks up any niggling doubts as to the magnitude of Radiohead’s next undertaking. The first few seconds are marvellous, as the notes briefly scramble for their new direction, before settling confidently on the right course.
4. Black Math – The White Stripes (2003)
The White Stripes’ finest 3 minutes if you ask me. It’s incredible to think that it is actually only three minutes long, for in that short time it showcases everything that is so enthralling about The White Stripes. The charging no-holds-barred riff, the pinpoint originality of Jack White’s lyrics even when singing about such unoriginal topics as a relationship break-up, and then the most downright preposterous of instrumental interludes, as he assaults and hacks at his guitar like a lunatic let loose on the world.
3. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song – The Flaming Lips (2006)
A song that simultaneously manages to be both The Flaming Lips’ most palpably solemn political statement, as it concerns itself with the corruption that seems to come hand-in-hand with great power and responsibility, whilst also being their downright daftest hour, as it comes across sounding like Wayne Coyle went and hired The Tweenies to help out with composing. It’s fun, it’s silly and it’s not afraid to turn its rather serious question onto the listener; “With all your power, what would you do?”
2. Communication Breakdown – The Sunshine Underground (2006)
This song ranks highly, just as Sunshine Underground’s entire debut album ‘Raise the Alarm’ ranked highly in my albums of the decade, because as I look back on the manic five years I spent in Leeds at university this would probably be the most appropriate soundtrack for my time there. I’ve lost count of the gloriously messy evenings I’ve spent howling this song huddled tight with my friends on the dancefloor of Leeds nightclubs. It’s chorus is home to one of my all-time favourite kick-ins (and I fucking love kick-ins) as well as being suitably wail-able throughout. Thus, everything I want from a nightclub song is contained therein.
- New Born – Muse (2001)
It was an all-out war between this and ‘Plug-In Baby’ for top spot of the decade but New Born has, just about, nabbed the honours, mainly because within its epic six minute parameters are everything that have made Muse my favourite band of the last ten years. In thinking about the ingredients required for my ideal song I would have to say it needs to include each of the following: a fucking awesome kick-in, an original and imaginative solo, chant-a-long lyrics and a groove that damn well demands you get on your feet and get on down. ‘New Born’ more than covers all these bases. Matt Bellamy’s slender, purposeful piano intices us in, building us gently towards the mother of all kick-ins, where Chris Wolstenholme’s stonking bassline comes hammering down and drives us unwittingly onwards and upwards, eventually culminating in Matt Bellamy’s typically frenzied guitar finger-tapping. It’s a virtuoso performance, utterly bonkers and thoroughly deserving of track of the decade.