08 January 2010

Best Songs of the 2000s (part 2)

Here's the second half of the Top 100 Songs of the 2000s. There were many great songs, but there was only one real contender for No. 1, since nothing else quite captured the, um, shall we say tone of the past 10 years. I'll try to get the albums list up next week. Until then, enjoy...

50. “Galang”—M.I.A.

49. “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood”—Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

The best song I’ve heard about the early days of the war in Iraq, perfectly capturing the thing that made this war different from all the others, that feeling that it simultaneously was and wasn't happening. It’s also about child stars.

48. “We Major”—Kanye West (feat. Nas and Really Doe)

47. “Sawdust & Diamonds”—Joanna Newsom

A moment of almost unbearable vision.

46. “Black Cadillacs”—Modest Mouse

45. “Maps”—Yeah Yeah Yeahs

This classic classic-rock ballad may be the only song from this band that I care about.

44. “Rain Fall Down”—The Rolling Stones

On 2005’s A Bigger Bang, Mick tried actually singing on a Stones album for the first time in about 25 years, and it turns out the old guy can still do it (“Feels like we’re living in a battleground and everybody’s jaa-ah-ah-ah-uzzzzed”).

43. “Weak Become Heroes”—The Streets

42. “99 Problems”—Jay-Z

This masculinist banger was more or less what the whole rap-metal thing was trying to get at all along.

41. “The Hardest Button to Button”—The White Stripes

Jack White channels his inner Iggy Pop.

40. “Hercules Theme”—Hercules and Love Affair

39. “White Winter Hymnal”—Fleet Foxes

38. “House of Jealous Lovers”—The Rapture

Back when hipster music wasn't such a bad thing.

37. “Amazing”—Kanye West (feat. Young Jeezy)

36. “Ms. Jackson"—Outkast

Andre and Big Boi do some brilliant tag-teaming in the service of a song of remarkable emotional maturity and complexity.

35. “A Certain Romance”—The Arctic Monkeys

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Alex Turner: “And over there there’s broken bones/There’s only music so that there’s new ring tones/And it don’t take no Sherlock Holmes/To see it’s a little different around here/Don’t get me wrong though, there’s boys in bands/And kids who like to scrap with pool cues in their hands/And just ’cause he’s had a couple of cans/He thinks it’s all right to act like a dickhead.” I’m not sure how you learn to write lyrics like that, but sitting around listening to records definitely isn’t it.

34. “Pagan Poetry”—Björk

33. “Turn My Way”—New Order (feat. Billy Corgan)

Bernard Sumner lays it all out, with an assist from Billy Corgan. It’s the best track the latter was ever involved in, and that’s not a slam on the Smashing Pumpkins. Well, not a total slam.

32. “And Then Patterns”—Four Tet

31. “Never Gonna Change”—Drive-by Truckers

Southern gangsta rock at its finest. Still, the question lingers: Were the gun-toting, drug-trafficking truck drivers of Alabama really worthy of such a tribute? Yes. Oh yes.

30. “Umbrella”—Rihanna (feat. Jay-Z)

Supposedly this song was offered to Madonna and Britney Spears, but it needed the voice of an unspoiled newcomer (e.g., the 19-year-old Rihanna) rather than that of a jaded pop star (e.g., the 21-year-old Rihanna).

29. “Hard to Explain”—The Strokes

Rollin’ down the street smokin’ endo.

28. “Heat Breeze Tenderness”—Youssou N’Dour

I’m not sure the English translation of the lyrics in the album notes for Nothing’s in Vain quite does justice to what’s happening here, but I think I get it anyway.

27. “The Righteous Path”—Drive-by Truckers

Patterson Hood envisions the American Everyman, circa 2008. The verse about the narrator’s troubled friend is a remarkable blend of empathy and self-delusion.

26. “I Predict a Riot”—Kaiser Chiefs

It was huge in Britain, dammit.

25. “Another Morning Stoner”—And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

24. “Don’t Panic”—Coldplay

First song on their first album and the best thing they’ll ever do.

23. “Everything in Its Right Place”—Radiohead

22. “Clint Eastwood”—Gorillaz

21. “Modern Way”—Kaiser Chiefs

A rock anthem for our time.

20. “The Rat”—The Walkmen

Ah, the jaded city (“When I used to go out I’d know everyone I saw/Now I go out alone if I go out at all”).

19. “Superheroes”—Daft Punk

I think it’s “Something’s in the air.” Or “Love is in the air.” Or “Throw guns in the air.” It’s the repetition that matters.

18. “Flashing Lights”—Kanye West (feat. Dwele)

That hint of autumn underneath the ocean breeze.

17. “Moment of Surrender”—U2

U2 reached a number of long-sought aesthetic goals on No Line on the Horizon. This 21st-century hymn, mostly recorded in one amazing take in Morocco, represented one.

16. “Good Fortune”—PJ Harvey

Once in a while when the sun is shining and your head’s just right, the city’s not such a bad place after all.

15. “High Water (For Charley Patton)”—Bob Dylan

One of the songs that defined that surreal period immediately after 9/11, as its feverish lyrics took on resonances that even its august maker could scarcely have anticipated.

14. “Star Guitar”—The Chemical Brothers

A dispatch from some mythical place where the sun never sets and the music never stops.

13. “Jenny Wren”—Paul McCartney

Like an aging hall-of-fame pitcher who might not be able to bring it every time out—but can still reach back and throw a gem on a given night.

12. “Heartbeat”—Annie

Tip of the hat to Pitchfork for drawing my attention to this slice of pop perfection from Norway. Stopping brilliantly short after two choruses, the whole thing is pure elemental bliss, but it’s Annie’s distracted reading of the final verse that launches the track into the stratosphere, the dancefloor encounter of the song’s opening now slipped into memory.

11. “Finer Feelings”—Spoon

Memphis meets Sandinista on the best track from the best album of the decade’s most consistent band.

10. “Pyramid Song”—Radiohead

Possibly the most beautiful piece of music in the Radiohead catalog.

9. “Losing My Edge”—LCD Soundsystem

The particular anxieties of the aging hipster, captured with the keen humor and minute precision of one who knows of what he speaks.

8. “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”—U2

Inspired by the suicide of INXS frontman and F.O.B. Michael Hutchence, one of the best white gospel tracks of all time.

7. “Jesus Walks”—Kanye West

The way Kathie Lee needed Regis.

6. “The Way We Get By”—Spoon

With a litle help from our friends, of course.

5. “B.O.B.”—Outkast

Just obviously great. I have nothing further to add.

4. “Casimir Pulaski Day”—Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan’s theology of suffering.

3. “Unknown Caller”—U2

Brian Eno’s never seemed more like a full-fledged member of U2 than on this majestic 2009 track, in some respects the pinnacle of a 25-year collaboration.

2. “Unison”—Björk

It wasn’t a great decade for love songs, but Björk was never much for following the crowd. Nestled at the end of her finest album is her greatest track ever, a nearly seven-minute fusion of strings and synthesizers, electronic beats and choral vocals. Somehow all the humanity and all the technology comes together, and it’s a glorious thing to hear. Play it loud.

1. “Paper Planes”—M.I.A.

The whole damn decade in 3:25.

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