25. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy (St. Elsewhere, 2006) Listen
It’s enormous testament to this track and its writers that even after hearing it about a billion times, it still sounds good. Ceee-Lo revealed a previously unknown knack for soulful singing and also brought to a greater audience the enormous talent that is Dangermouse (though those in the know had already been wowed by his Grey Album stroke of genius that laid Jay-Z Black Album rhymes over Beatles White Album samples). Sure, Crazy will be a wedding disco staple for years to come, but don’t hold that against it, and try and remember how you felt about it when you were only a few listens in.
24. The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) (Funeral, 2004) Listen
Funeral was an album of art and sincerity, and had an undertow of sadness due to the deaths of several people close to the band during the album’s recording (hence the title). The whole thing adds up to an emotionally heady mix that’s more or less filmic in its vision (something that wasn’t lost on Spike Jonze who had the band re-record Wake Up for his Where The Wild Things Are trailer. This track is like going to church, but in a good way.
23. Daft Punk – Aerodynamic (Discovery, 2001) Listen
Did somebody order a slice of baffling musical genius? Sounding like it had come out of the court of Louis XIV if he’d lived on Mars in the future, Aerodynamic was about as astonishing as it’s possible for music to be. It can’t sound anywhere near dated yet because it doesn’t even sound like it should exist yet, it’s so far ahead of its time.
22. Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor (I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor EP, 2005) Listen
Notice I’ve specifically put this down as from the EP, not the album? The Monkeys re-recorded their tracks before putting them on the album and I think a little bit of edge was lost in doing that. But whichever version you have, there’s more excitement in these 3 minutes than a lot of bands manage in a whole album. Such was the maturity of Alex Turner’s lyrics and the general arrangement of Monkeys’ songs that the band were plagued by rumours of some sinister puppet master pulling their strings (with Jarvis Cocker being the main suspect). Craziness - they were just an obscenely talented bunch of young men.
21. Passion Pit – Sleepyhead (Manners, 2009) Listen
This song took me a couple of listens before I ‘got it’, but once I had my head around it, it just seems to be one of the most magically joyful songs to be released in a long time. It’s got a pulsing beat and some crazy chipmunk-y vocals (don’t be put off by that), all with a psychedelic backdrop of trippy melodies – granted, on paper it absolutely doesn’t sound like it should work, but the beauty of music is that you don’t listen to it on paper, and this is brilliantly different to pretty much anything else.
20. Johnny Cash – Hurt (American IV: The Man Comes Around, 2003) Listen
All of Johnny Cash’s Rick Rubin-produced albums were poignant, though some of the brittle acoustic covers seemed to skirt dangerously close to hokey, but the better examples were full of such powerful emotion that it was hard not to well up. This take on Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt is unbelievably moving, and the video is often cited as one of the best of recent years.
19. Missy Elliott - Get Ur Freak On (...So Addictive, 2001) Listen
Hip hop’s had some mighty inventive moments in the past decade, though arguably none more so than this, another Timbaland production. It’s absolutely unforgettable with a rhythm and instrumentation that hadn’t been heard in the mainstream before, but a few suckers tried to copy since. And it showed off Missy’s rhyming skills to the max, something she doesn’t always get much credit for.
18. Christina Aguilera – Dirrty (Stripped, 2002) Listen
So if Timberlake kicked his reinvention off with a classy take on boy-becomes-man, Christina’s female version of that process was all about the raunch. The song’s less-than-subtle message was rammed home by the video that spread around the internet quicker than a voucher for free money, and Christina and her chaps were seared onto everyone’s brains for a long time to come. Excellent Redman rap in this too.
17. Snoop Dogg Feat. Pharrell - Drop It Like It's Hot (Rhythm & Gangsta, 2004) Listen
The Neptunes created one of the defining sounds of the past decade (and launched Pharrell, a star in his own right), and they were never more audacious than on this Snoop bomb. Similar to Get Ur Freak On, less was more for Drop It and the hypnotic beat and a few infrequent synth stabs were all the music that Snoop needed to drop some solid gold West Coast rhymes. Now let’s all try and do that ‘clip clop’ beat thing. – snoooooooooooop!!
16. Bon Iver - Skinny Love (For Emma, Forever Ago, 2007) Listen
So-called ‘cabin rock’ has been a noticeable force in the last quarter of the noughties and the act most lauded above all others is Wisconsin’s Justin Vernon, AKA Bon Iver. His story got the press on board (he buggered off to a cabin in the wilderness to write his debut album) but it was his memorable approach to Americana that kept people recommending it. His post-debut releases (an EP and a side project called Volcano Choir) suggest that lightning will strike plenty more times for Bon Iver. After seeing him perform Skinny Love solo on Jools Holland I knew this was a man to pay attention to.
15. Robyn With Kleerup - With Every Heartbeat (Robyn, 2007) Listen
Another Scando-pop masterpiece, and as far as I’m concerned this is the big one. The song’s Radio 1 ubiquity could be enough to put a music purist off but you can’t blame the nation’s yoof station for recognizing quality when they hear it. The unlikely chart star behind it was Sweden’s Robyn, last seen in the late 90s with a couple of dance hits, but this older (and wiser-sounding) Robyn came back (with Swedish producer Kleerup) to rule the airwaves with a superbly sophisticated floorfiller.
14. The Felice Brothers - Frankie's Gun! (The Felice Brothers, 2008) Listen
The Felice Brothers haven’t excited much attention outside of the pages of Uncut and the like, but this accordion-led masterpiece should be force-fed to anyone who has any interest in the alternative side of American music. It doesn’t take many listens to spot the debt Frankie’s Gun! owes to The Band, but like I said for The Gaslight Anthem’s entry, if influences are incorporated in such a grand way as this, then that’s all for the better.
13. Kanye West Feat Jamie Foxx - Gold Digger (Late Registration, 2005) Listen
Okay, we all know that Kanye’s majorly fallen off in the past twelve months or so (jackass, indeed), but this is still a fricking delight when it comes on the speakers, and is a timely reminder of why we all liked him the first place (and we did all like him). The song is a mirror for Kanye himself – clever, arrogant, inventive, funky, incisive, and above all, a cut above the rest. All together now, “we want pre-nup!”.
12. Fleet Foxes - Sun It Rises (Fleet Foxes, 2008) Listen
New band of the decade? Some would say so. I’m the first to admit that I adore Fleet Foxes, and their bucolic take on indie (all perfect harmonies and lyrics that sound like they’re out of Lord Of The Rings) has won them an army of ardent fans. As much as I’ve picked out the likes of Missy’s Get UR Freak On and The Knife’s Silent Shout for their inventive take on their genre’s well-worn path, the Foxes should be similarly praised for moving country rock forward to new levels of greatness, not seen since Crosby, Stills & Nash’s heyday.
11. Midlake - Roscoe [Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Reanimation], (Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Reanimations, 2007) Listen
I was in two minds about whether to even include this track – after all, it’s the remix that’s the genius part of this, and why Midlake (a band I’m not really familiar with) are so high up in my top 100. But include it I have, and it’s one of my most listened to tracks of the past few years. The original is a good but unremarkable indie rocker, but London duo Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve have turned it into an ambient masterpiece that’s reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell. Its gentle tempo and thoughtful lyrics are a heady combination, but the inspired decision to remove the guitars and let the well-crafted vocals carry the song is what makes Roscoe a very memorable seven minutes.
Part 6 (10-1)