Part 1 (intro and also-rans)
Part 2 (100-76)
Part 3 (75-51)
Part 4 (50-26)
Part 5 (26-11)
10. Jimmy Eat World - The Middle (Bleed American, 2001) Listen
There was a time a few years ago when emo was the genre making all the waves, and at the forefront of that (and on the cover of NME and Kerrang) was Arizona’s Jimmy Eat World. They’re all-but forgotten on this side of the Atlantic now but Bleed American (or the self-titled Jimmy Eat World, as the album was rechristened in the wake of 9/11) is as strong a rock album as any of the 2000s. The Middle, a discerning radio-friendly track, is the highlight of an album that offered a no-frills approach to leftfield rocking-out that’s still entertaining me greatly now. Nice guys, too.
9. Vampire Weekend - A-Punk (Vampire Weekend, 2008) Listen
The plethora of identikit indie rock groups only serves to highlight that little bit more the ones that do things differently, and no-one’s really done what Vampire Weekend have done since The Police. Taking their inspiration from African rhythms, 80s new wave and their private American educations, they were a massive breath of fresh air in a scene that grows stale too often. A-Punk combines all these things and clocks in at an all-too-short 2m18s. But what a couple of minutes they are.
8. Phoenix - Too Young (United, 2000) Listen
If Phoenix owned a shop it would have “Purveyors of Fine Gallic Produce” printed on the window in thick gold paint. Too Young is both retro and modern, English and French, upbeat and melancholy. It’s a wonderful mix of all those things and you can put it on at 9am on a Monday morning and it will still make you feel like you’re in that perfect hour at the disco where the one you love is looking at you just how you want and everything around you is the best you’ve ever known.
7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - There She Goes, My Beautiful World (Abattoir Blues, 2004) Listen
Nick Cave can be an acquired taste, and I don’t always acquire it, but this song has engaged that cerebral hairs-standing-up feeling in me more than any other this decade. It’s not just the passion of Cave and the choir that make listening to this a religious experience, but the forceful feeling of every second of this song should get even the most uptight square dancing in the aisles. Listening to this, I always picture Cave performing it on his knees covered in sweat belting it out in front of a packed congregation. Inspiring every time.
6. M.I.A. - Paper Planes (Kala, 2008) Listen
M.I.A.’s biggest hit to date might still be an album obscurity if it wasn’t for an average comedy movie using it in an advert (Pineapple Express). Sampling The Clash’s Straight To Hell is just one of the superb elements of this Diplo, Switch and M.I.A. production, but it’s the gunshot chorus that’s the most memorable part of this track. It’s got something, an x-factor if you will, that just makes Paper Planes stick in the head in that way that means I can’t imagine ever tiring of it.
5. MGMT - Time To Pretend (Oracular Spectacular, 2007) Listen
The attraction in Time To Pretend (my #1 song in my 2008 list) is not just the heavy-hippy tune, but the brilliant conceit that lies at its centre – a first verse fantasy about becoming a rock star that gets brought back to earth with a bump with the second verse realisations that it won’t be all it’s cracked up to be. Ideas like that probably qualify the two early twenty-somethings of MGMT to be labeled as precocious but that’s been the way with so many good musicians over the years, so let’s hope their second album (due in January 2010) will see them deliver more of the same.
4. Outkast - Ms. Jackson (Stankonia, 2000) Listen
Outkast always looked destined to be a little different to most rappers right from their early albums, but Stankonia was a stupendously funky raising of the hip hop bar. The titular Ms Jackson represents all the mother’s of young mothers and the distrust they have for the father of their daughter’s child – it’s all about the baby mommas. But socially conscious raps aside, what really makes Ms Jackson so special is its effortless cool, cleverly treading the line between ballad and floorfiller, and it sounds as new now as the day it was released, right at the top of the noughties. And the fact that the video’s full of great animals too is no bad thing in my book.
3. Jay-Z - 99 Problems (The Black Album, 2003) Listen
Never has the misogyny of rap sounded so fun (except perhaps Sir Mix-a-lot’s Baby Got Back, I suppose). The unforgettable chorus line comes from a 1995 Ice-T track of the same name but as good as Ice was back in the day, he doesn’t come within a country mile of what Jay does with 99 Problems. In all probability, the second verse, about getting pulled over by the police, is the greatest in hip hop history, so complete is its painting of a scenario from start to finish.
2. Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (Fleet Foxes, 2008) Listen
Sometimes the special way that music makes you feel defies words and analysis. Good music should move you, in some way or another, and raw emotions are almost impossible to capture on paper, especially for an amateur hack like me. And so White Winter Hymnal is a perfect example of that – its beautiful innocence makes it such a simply wonderful experience every single time, that for me that’s more than enough. So if you don’t ‘get’ Fleet Foxes, or don’t warm to this kind of simple acoustic music, then I’ll probably never convince you of why this is hands down one of the greatest songs on this decade. But take it from me, if you do ‘get’ it, there are few more joyful things out there than this 147 seconds.
1. LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends (Sound Of Silver, 2006) Listen
And so to my number 1. I hope you like it – but if you don’t know it, or know it but don’t think it’s worth being up here, take a couple more listens and see if I can change your mind.
James Murphy’s songwriting normally leans towards the electronic end of the musical spectrum but here it’s all about guitars, live drums and rattling piano keys, and that all combined with the lyrics is what pushes this song into the area of greatness. It’s a daring song by any estimation (and at nearly eight minutes long, All My Friends isn’t a second too long), but even more so as a single. Some bright spark (probably Murphy himself) decided that a good idea would be to release this as a single with two b-sides, both of which were covers of this same song, one by Franz Ferdinand and one by John Cale, and in my book that’s a bloody great idea. But it’s not the covers that make this my number 1, my favourite (and I also believe, the best) song of the past ten years.
Like a volcano brewing away, waiting to erupt, All My Friends builds and builds and builds, making you wonder where exactly it’s going. It doesn’t take too long to realise that it’s all going somewhere special. It makes me feel like a teenager again, like the beauty and power of music is just being shown to me for the first time. It opened my eyes, my brain, my heart. It makes me believe that anything’s possible, with its spirit emphasising that those little mistakes are all there for a reason and that you “wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life”. And the truly best bit about everything that this song offers - it makes you want to see the people you love, spend time with the ones that matter, and you realise that that’s the true worth of a person – who your friends are. So I’d like to dedicate this to my friends - all my friends.