Songs

This is the second in an occasional series of lists of the past decade’s best music (according to your truly) – feel free to get into the comments if you disagree with my choices for the best songs of the decade. These are the tunes that have defined it for me… what about you?

The photograph above was taken recently in Canary Wharf, where time, I suppose, is money.

Top Ten Songs 2000-2009

10 – Sugababes – Freak Like Me Sugababes - Angels With Dirty Faces
The first single from Sugababes mark two (as any good Sugababes watcher will tell you, they’re now version 6.112 beta) and their first number one single, Freak Like Me benefited from a huge Gary Numan sample, Ruchard X at the mixing desk, and the usual barely concealed, and back then barely legal, filth that consisted of Sugababes lyrics when they were good. Now that they’re nothing more than a Girls Aloud tribute band, with no more original parts than Trigger’s brush, it’s easy to forget how good they used to be. Put this on and cast your mind back to 2003 to remember.

9 – Alter Ego – Rocker Alter Ego - Rocker
Alter Ego were one of those strange, mid-decade acts that the clash of Daft Punk, Fischerspooner and Soulwax flung up, big before dance rock, rock dance crossovers really took off, their one major club smash was the hypnotically good Rocker. The track takes me back to my second year of Uni and going to Fabric and The End to see DJs like Erol Alkan, Felix Da Housecat and Soulwax’s Dewale brothers in their 2 Many DJs guise. The version below is Josh Wink’s extended acid wig out.

Alter Ego – Acid Rocker (Josh Wink Remix)

8 – Kanye West – Through The Wire Kanye West - The College Dropout
Kanye West isn’t the decade’s best rapper (that’s Jay-Z, just like last decade and hopefully next too); he isn’t the biggest rapper (Slim Shady, um, stand up); I’m not even sure he’s the best producer (Neptunes, Timbaland?); but fair to say he’s by far the biggest and best producer turned rapper, and probably the decade’s most interesting (and bonkers!) star. Through The Wire broke him, told his – brilliant – back story, and introduced his laconic ryhmes, family friendly philosophy (try hard and you can achieve anything? Ok.), and unique productions to the world.

7 – White Stripes – Seven Nation Army The White Stripes - Elephant
From football terraces to festivals, the burring riff of Seven Nation Army has probably rung out across more stadia than almost any other tune in the past ten years. As with every one of Jack White’s best moments, the song is a startingly simple (having only two instruments and a vocal helps with that I guess!) rocker that is basically all hook. I can’t think of many other indie songs that have broken to a wider audience than Seven Nation Army, and almost every football team I’ve seen play since 2003 have used it to laud at least one of their players.

6 – Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American
Emotional hardcore played by ernest boys in tight sweaters with hockey stick high Gibsons was the sound of the turn of the century, but it wasn’t until summer 2001 that the genre got an anthem of its own in Bleed American. From the subsequently psuedonymous album that held the same title for a month or two before being pulped after the attacks in New York and Washington, the song is an overwraught (in the best way) slab of screaming guitars and vocals that’s heavier than almost anything else produced by Jimmy Eat World.

Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American

5 – Lily Allen – LDN Lily Allen - Alright, Still
Like Artic Monkeys, Lily exploded as Web 2.0 went mainstream and Myspace became for music what Ebay is for fake Versace t-shirts. Leaving aside the family and the furore over file sharing, the hype and the hook ups with aging Chemical Brothers, Lily is a sublime lyricist, and I would argue with anyone that the verse:

“There was a little old lady, who was walkin’ down the road, She was struggling with her bags from Tesco, There were people from the city havin’ lunch in the park, I believe that it’s called al fresco”

is one of the most apt of the last ten years… Ldn is a happy, hooky slice of pop that celebrates a brilliant city, as it was before the financial crisis took away some of the fun: a bit dark, a lot vibrant, and the coolest place in the world on a sunny summer day..

4 – The Strokes – Last Nite The Strokes - Is This It
Even though the White Stripes are more credible, Kings Of Leon more popular, The Killers more arrogant and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club more cool; The Strokes more than any other band redefined and defined indie for the best part of the decade. Last Nite was the brittle, buzzing soundtrack to a reinvention and even though it helped to spawn ‘Peter’ Doherty and the Pidgeon Detectives, it’s so bloody good you’ve got to let it off.

3 – Artic Monkeys – When The Sun Goes Down Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
When the media needed a new story in the mid-decade slump, when file sharing hadn’t killed music, and when the biggest, the best bands in the world were polished rockers, and slick rappers, along came four boys from Shefield, too young to shave every day, let alone save rock and roll, with a sharp riff and a sharper rhyme. Alex Turner was 17 when he wrote much of what became the Artic Monkeys debut album, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not. 17. I could barely lace my shoes at 17 and the guy was writing lyrics that better define life and living than most poets, thinkers, drinkers and philosophers manage, let alone eclipsing the work of every mid-market tabloid leader writer in history! When The Sun Goes Down, with it’s tale of Mr Inconspicuous who don’t even have say owt and the girl who don’t do major credit cards or receipts, wasn’t their first single, or even their first number one, but it was the first to highlight that there was something a little special about the Monkeys and Turner, something that set them apart from their contemporaries, let alone the landfill indie dirges that have followed it. I don’t think that either of their subsequent albums has matched their debut’s raw brilliance, although Fluorescent Adolescent is close. The crazy thing about the first album is that I think at least five of its songs could argue a case to be featured on this list (Mardy Bum, I Bet That You Look Good On The Dance Floor, Riot Van, and From The Ritz To The Rubble I reckon). A hell of thing to live up to, and on the basis they’re still only 23ish, I’m sure they’ll manage sooner or later.

2 – Justice v Simian – We Are Your Friends Justice - A Cross the Universe
A big tune. A BIG tune. One of the biggest of the decade. The recipe? Take one indie cindy tune, dirty it up with a thumping dose of hippest Parisian Ed Banger electro, leave to simmer and rise for two full years before it breaks and becomes the biggest club tune of the decade. Another Fabric tune, the type to surround yourself with when your surrounded by strangers to, the type to make a whole club your new best friends; the type to form new tribes, new indentities, new lives, to. Something special then, going from first listen shivers to over played but taking three years to get there. Justice might have proved they had more to them with the release of †, with its blend of pop hooks and bleepy, bassy electro; Ed Banger might have had other artists in Uffie and Feadz, and even a half decent one in Mehdi, but really, the band, the label, even the scene was built on this one song. A genuine smash, a sound system banger, a genre definer, an epoch – if you’ve not blearly jumped and hugged and bounced and grabbed as you screamed along “Because we are, your friends, you’ll, NEVER BE ALONE AGAIN” you didn’t enjoy the noughties as much as I did. The version below is the live one from Across The Universe, gives me a little shiver!

Justice – We Are Your Friends [Reprise]

1 – Radiohead – Idioteque Radiohead - Kid A
Saying Radiohead are ahead of the zeitgeist is like saying The Beatles had some success, The Beach Boys wrote some nice melodies, or Cheryl Cole is a little vapid. But with Idioteque, not only did they manage to meld Warp’s beats to Yorke’s breathy vocals, and invent indie glitch rock to create a truly ground-breaking pop song, they also pre-empted the pop culture embracing of the climate change cause by about five years. The song’s early-adopter support of the science and the importance of climate change means that when Thom York shows up at Copenhagen to hector the wrold’s leaders about an emissions deal, your first thought isn’t, ‘oh god, its another sub-Bono, Geldof-lite trying to sell albums by adopting a cause’, it’s ‘hmm, he might get something done’… That would be good enough for the tune, were it not for the fact that its a genuine corker of a song too. It’s rare that explicitly political songs stand alone as utterly brilliantly musically, but with Idioteque, Radiohead wrote a song so good it might go on to be not just the best of the decade, but one of the best of the century, the likes of which still haven’t even been replicated by anyone else, let alone bettered. The version below is drawn from 2001′s I Might Be Wrong live album, with a brilliant mass sing along ending. Enjoy.

Radiohead – Idioteque (Live)

You can find the previous Top Ten Compilations of the Decade list here

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