Introducing the public at large to the clattering, joyful noise and soaring vocals of Florence Welch and her backing band, ‘Dog Days Are Over’ was mostly recorded on one modest Yamaha keyboard and went multi-platinum on both sides of the Atlantic.
Acknowledging their past as ‘stoner-rock’ legends Kyuss with this blistering track, QOTSA risked commercial banishment as virtually nobody would promote a single whose only lyrics were “nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol”, with a chorus of “c-c-c-c-c-cocaine!”
A big fat guilty pleasure of a track, ‘Move Your Feet’ by Danish one-hit-wonders Junior Senior was as camp as Christmas. Accompanied by a cute, pixelated 8-bit computer game-style video, it was a slice of timeless dance-pop exhibitionism boasting an incredibly infectious chorus.
Trailing their fourth album Black Holes And Revelations, Muse unleashed this surprisingly slinky disco-rock monster which sounded like Black Sabbath covering Prince, and proved that the Teignmouth trio could sound innovative as well as merely ‘bigger’.
Incredibly divisive at the time due its suggestive (and, admittedly, not particularly well-executed or subtle) music video, as well as the rumours that the Russian teenage girls who made up t.A.T.u. were being exploited a cynical svengali figure, what nobody could deny was that ‘All The Things She Said’ was a glorious pop tune out of the top drawer.
Alison Goldfrapp’s classy, cinematic debut single immediately marked her out as an exceptional talent, coming across as a lost Sergio Leone soundtrack or never-made Bond theme. However, ‘Lovely Head’ is probably seared into your consciousness because of its haunting, high lonesome whistling intro. Utterly beautiful.
A track that remains a fan favourite in Wild Beasts’ live sets even now, ‘All The King’s Men’ saw keyboardist/bassist Tom Fleming took lead vocal duties for the first time. His throatier, rougher vocal style added an extra dimension to the band’s sensual, intelligent soundscapes, reflecting a perfect balance of intellectualism and smut that made Two Dancers such a triumph.
A sumptuous mixture of chilled-out electronics, stabs of dramatic synths and old-skool beats, ‘Flashing Lights’ was widely cited as the best track from Kanye’s third album Graduation. It was also the last truly great Kanye single of his original incarnation as a purely hip-hop artist.
Harnessing the combustible energy and internal divisions that would tear At The Drive-In apart just a few months after its release, producer Ross Robinson captured this highly influential post-hardcore act at the height of their powers, as the band plays like guns are being held to their heads.
Popularised by its use on ‘The O.C.’ and 2006 movie Stranger Than Fiction, the smart, literate yet cheery piano-pop of ‘The Way We Get By’ brought mainstream attention to Britt Daniel’s Spoon for the first time in their career, paving the way for chart success in their future.
A fantastical, nine-minute collision of house beats, cowbells, rubbery basslines and billows of psychedelic guitar, !!!’s breakthrough single ‘Me And Giuliani…’ (referencing the Republican then-mayor of New York) was agit-prop turned agit-pop, and proved that music and politics could mix.
Released as the soundtrack to Danny Boyle’s movie adaptation of The Beach, ‘Pure Shores’ was a futuristic, utterly tranquil pop song set to lush electronics. Finally seeing All Saints live up to their hype, it became the second-best-selling single of the year in the UK.
The second single from Idlewild’s emotionally and sonically expansive breakthrough record The Remote Part, ‘American English’ took their hyper-literate approach and applied it to something much bigger-sounding than before, producing a windswept epic for vast open spaces.
Kelis’s third album Tasty could have been mined for any number of brilliant singles, but she followed the iconic ‘Milkshake’ with an even better track. ‘Trick Me’ was a spritely yet perfectly poised combination of funk and hip-hop that earned her a second consecutive worldwide hit.
Giddy, hormone-rush call-and-response vocals; trans-curious lyrics inspired by Jacksonville’s dance party scene; glittery ‘80s synths and slashed guitar chords – everything about Black Kids’ glorious breakout single was a tribute to misfit youth. Sadly, they’ve never gotten round to following it up.
Country soul at its very finest from Kurt Wagner’s Lambchop. Built on a blissful, undulating bassline and punctuated by handclaps and horns to give it extra widescreen drama, ‘Up With People’ told a subtle tale of a world going gently wrong with his homespun Tennessee lyricism.
A song so chart-orientated that it was rumoured to have been written for Kylie Minogue, ‘Ready For The Floor’ was a gently insistent piece of Italo-house-influenced pop and became Hot Chip’s first UK Top Ten hit and built on the great work of their ubiquitous, slow-burner ‘Over And Over’ two years before.
Retaining their unexpected mixture of wildly different sounds, ‘Dancing Choose’ and its parent album Dear Science marked the point at which TVOTR decided to reach out to a wider audience, with a sunny piece of West Coast rock underpinned by funky rhythms.
Recorded with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler on production – as opposed to the Libs’ regular producer Mick Jones – ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ was an excellent stand-alone single that ensured the band’s reputation grew even bigger despite the wait between albums.
Bloc Party’s third single of 2004, which was mysteriously left out of their debut album Silent Alarm the following year, was a whirlwind of angular post-punk and danceable rhythm, aimed at the brain as well as the feet, and which stoked fans’ anticipation further.
Going multi-platinum in no time at all, ‘Single Ladies…’ teetered just on the right side of self-parody with a titanic hook, lyrics of self-confidence and assertion, and munificent production. If anybody had been in any doubt about Bey’s status as the new Queen of Pop, they weren’t any more.
Featuring clean, muted guitar lines, wordless vocals and beautiful harmonising, ‘White Winter Hymnal’ seemed to condense all of the spellbinding elements of Fleet Foxes’ work up to that point in under two minutes.
The song that signalled Muse’s newfound sonic ambition to the outside world and set them on the path to international superstardom, ‘Plug In Baby’ displayed Matt Bellamy’s classical training with the kind of baroque-influenced riffing that has long since become the band’s trademark.
A significantly bigger hit upon re-release in 2007 when it was absolutely everywhere, Brazilian indie-electro operators CSS enjoyed a quintessentially ‘noughties’ kind of success with the perky, vogueish ‘Let’s Make Love’ – a glassy, bouncing bassline, shimmering keyboard tweets and referencing shagging and their love for Canadian colleagues Death From Above 1979.
A painfully addictive pop track that deserved to be a much bigger hit than it ended up being, Norwegian singer Annie teamed up with pop production maestro Richard X for this playful playground chant of a song with a simple premise at its core: an internal monologue likening relationships and men to chewing gum, spitting them out “when all the flavour has gone.”
Providing ubiquitous backing music for everything from nature documentaries to sporting montages, ‘Hoppípolla’ could well be the most well-known track in this whole list. A truly vast soundscape featuring a glistening, circling piano riff and breathy, wordless vocals from singer Jónsi, it became Sigur Rós’s lucrative payday when it was re-released in 2006.
A rare example of a genuinely humorous hit that isn’t regarded as a novelty song, Australian production collective The Avalanches caught many people’s attention with this exquisite track, painstakingly constructed from dozens of micro-samples that made a fresh and innovative whole, and paired with an equally bizarre music video.
A sleek and aerodynamic instrumental epic that unexpectedly found its way onto the soundtrack for the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, ‘Surf Solar’ was the sparkling highlight from Fuck Buttons’ celestial second record Tarot Sport.
A jaunty throwback to the ‘60s beat group era that also made sense in the modern world, ‘Dreaming Of You’ built on an impressive run of singles and became The Coral’s irresistible calling card, allowing them to breach the UK Top Twenty for the first time.
Originally a B-side before it received huge attention from the blogosphere, Santi’s breakout track was a curious piece of retro-futurism driven by understated new-wave guitars and topped off with a hypnotic vocal line. As such, it bridged the gap between R&B fans and the indie kids.
An anti-anthem for a scarred America post-9/11, this was the meditative centrepiece of Wilco’s masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. A bruised, reflective set of lyrics set to a subtle country-rock ballad embellished with modest horns, it’s one of Jeff Tweedy’s finest individual tracks.
A swelling indie love song that eventually found its audience in 2009 following its use in the movie (500) Days Of Summer, ‘Sweet Disposition’ is the perfect soundtrack to the aching despair of losing one’s first love, and has laid down the template for countless indie-pop bands subsequently.
A string-swept power rock song par excellence that featured The Cardigans’ Nina Persson in a glorious call-and-response motif, ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’ was a triumphant comeback single for the Manics that fully restored their reputation as an artistic and commercial force after a few years in the wilderness. You can never write them off.
A stinging attack on George W. Bush’s response to 9/11, which paid tribute to the working men who lost their lives while the commander-in-chief spent the day hiding, ‘Far Away’ was one of S-K’s most explicitly political tracks yet. Thinking about what happened to the Dixie Chicks, 2002 really wasn’t a time for any artist to stick their heads above the pulpit.
Built around a joyously loopy percussion sample from The Meters but given its distinctiveness by Amerie Rogers’ amazing siren wail and yelp, Columbia idiotically tried to suppress the leaked release of this infectious single that so obviously had ‘HIT’ written all over it. Radio stations loved it and refused to retract it from their playlists, and it eventually became a bona-fide smash.
A loving homage to the ‘80s rather than a knowing rip-off, producer Erol Alkan helped Mystery Jets craft a memorable hit from their second album Twenty One. Featuring a glorious synth-based chorus, some booming gated drums, and classic unrequited teenage love lyrics, ‘Two Doors Down’ was an expert lesson in how to do nostalgia properly.
Inspired by the 1998 storms that left Montreal in a blackout for over a week, the clattering urgency of ‘Power Out’ conveyed both hopelessness and redemption in the face of adversity. Scooping Canada’s Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year in 2006, it was just one of several highlights from Arcade Fire’s magnificent debut album Funeral.
The sumptuous lead single from Vespertine, set to shuffling, fluttering beats and swells of strings of choirs, the stately ‘Hidden Place’ was dedicated to the secretive thrill and abandon of new love, translating its creator’s relevance into the 21st century. Björk herself explained the track was about “how two people can create a paradise just by uniting.”
The stylish title track from The Knife’s career-defining masterpiece, with its tri-syllabic bassline emanating pure evil, its coldly precise synthesisers and Karin Dreijer Andersson’s creepy pitch-shifted vocals, put the Swedish duo vastly ahead of almost all of their competitors.
Though the Ed Case garage ‘Re-fix’ was the radio hit that slayed the charts, the low-BPM original album mix of ‘Clint Eastwood’, which also appeared in the memorable music video, was the superior version that most people remember, and introduced the world to Damon Albarn’s animated band.
Becoming a UK #3 hit in spite of Doves’ sudden decision to delete the single on the day of its release (a statement made about the physical value of music in the digital age, apparently), the sweeping ‘There Goes The Fear’ saw Doves open up a more technicolour side to their sound, in comparison to the majestic, monochrome claustrophobia of their debut album.
Initially appearing on the Five Minutes With Arctic Monkeys EP, ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’ was a razor-sharp piece of scenester-baiting that showed that Alex Turner was already a brilliantly incisive lyricist at just 18 years old. The track that first stoked the anticipation, even before ‘…Dancefloor’ – more on which later…
The emotional, spine-tingling centrepiece of American Idiot, which gave Green Day’s flagging career a much-needed shot in the arm. Coupled with a memorable music video telling the story of a young couple broken apart by the Iraq war that conveyed the song’s central theme of loss, Billie Joe Armstrong actually wrote it about the death of his father when he was ten.
Regarded by more than a few Deerhunter fans as Bradford Cox’s personal valediction, and one he frequently uses as a launch-pad for improvisational sections during live sets, ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ is a jagging, unpredictable indie epic dealing with its author’s deep sense of personal unease and paranoia.
A bigger hit when it was re-recorded and re-issued in early 2006, the slightly more scuffed and infinitely adorable original take on ‘Ladyflash’ remains the calling card for The Go! Team’s DIY ethic. Cramming motown, hip-hop, playground chants and distorted soul and string samples into a fun-packed four minutes, it was absolutely everywhere in the media.
“Ah my house!” Probably LCD Soundsystem’s most famous song, this hypnotic and irresistible single trailed the release of the band’s self-titled debut and saw them crack the charts for the first time. James Murphy paid tribute to the godfathers of the noughties dance-punk scene and his personal spiritual muse, by imagining hosting a house party headlined by Daft Punk.
Unusually recorded live on-stage in Montreal for inclusion on Want Two, and sung from the perspective of a bored housewife trapped in a loveless marriage and fantasising about her childhood art teacher, this was possibly the most excellent of Rufus Wainwright’s many intriguing and dramatic character studies.
With its insouciant, swaggering bassline and sharp riff exuding menace, dark glamour and general bar-room sleaze, ‘No One Knows’ introduced QOTSA to the mainstream for the first time in their careers. Taken from a similarly hard-hitting album, it was a piece of thoroughly modern metal paying tribute to punk, stoner rock and thrash as it roared its way into the charts.
A dreamy, almost uncategorisable track cast from ambient electronica and woozy trip-hop but following rock dynamics, The Beta Band were denied what was sure to be a UK Top Twenty hit when they pulled the beautiful single ‘Squares’ from release after another track around at the same time (I-Monster’s ‘Daydream In Blue’) used an identical Günter Kallmann Choir string sample. For shame!
Part of the excellent Sun Giant EP, ‘Mykonos’ served as a delicious aperitif for Fleet Foxes as Robin Pecknold’s band cross-pollinated Laurel Canyon folk with Olde English and medieval-sounding percussion in this epic, 8mins30secs track that built to an utterly transcendent climax. Retro has rarely sounded so stunning.
Tags: Ed Biggs, staff lists, The Top 200 Tracks of the 2000s
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