The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

I’m on fire!

50. Bloc Party – “Banquet”
(2004; Wichita)

Bloc Party got bored with being a wiry, agitated post-punk band pretty quickly. By the time they released their glossy second album A Weekend In the City, their dual guitar buzzsaw factory was mostly a fond memory, save for a few key tracks. This fact makes their breakout single “Banquet” all the more remarkable in retrospect. Part six-string knife fight, part sexual encounter and all gloriously melodic bliss, it was a hell of a way to introduce themselves to the world. Not that I don’t appreciate their willingness to experiment, but what I wouldn’t give to hear them play something this incredible again. – Jeff Terich

These days it comes it comes it comes it comes and goes.

49. Phoenix – “Lisztomania”
(2009; V2)

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that two of the best songs of the year (and the decade) put an eerily similar set of repetitive organ notes to great effect. One is Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks,” the other is the song in question here. But, Phoenix take their song in more varied and infectious pop directions than the former, including a Postal Service-esque bridge near the close. “Lisztomania” captures the two best elements of great pop, sexiness and fun. There is no way that any music aficionado could escape Phoenix this year. To paraphrase the Zombies, this would be Phoenix’s year, and it took way too long to come. (That’s what she said.) – Terrance Terich

I can’t imagine anything better

48. Dirty Projectors – “Stillness Is the Move”
(2009; Domino)

Considering the majority of Dave Longstreth’s experimentalist discography, I don’t think anyone expected that in 2009 Dirty Projectors would put out an absurdly catchy R&B jam that would later be covered by Solange. Then again, the last year of this exciting decade in music found a number of challenging artists striking out into new and more pop-oriented territory, this excellent lead single from Bitte Orca being one of the most notable and satisfying examples of that trend. Though that’s not to say that “Stillness Is the Move” lacks typical conceptual depth—Longstreth reportedly asked Amber Coffman to watch the film “Wings of Desire” and write down what she found interesting, later pairing these fragments with selections from “a spreadsheet of pop clichés” to complete the lyrics—or off-kilter execution. Avant-Afropop guitars cut across the churning bounce of the rhythm section as Coffman channels her inner Mariah Carey, her anthemic and alluring vocal sways and stabs displaying her impressive range and charisma. And while the conception of the lyrics may predictably lead to some odd, smirk-inducing contrasts of phrases, her inspired performance is sure to have you singing along with “After all that we’ve been through / I know that I will always love you / From now until forever baby / I can’t imagine anything better” and “Where did time begin / Where does space end / And where do you and I, where do you and I begin?” with equal sincerity. – Derek Emery

Our work is never over

47. Daft Punk – “Harder Better Faster Stronger”
(2001; Virgin)

Discovery, Daft Punk’s dazzling mirror-pop fantasy, knocked retrofuturism into a fucked hat (uh, it was also the album of the decade, but that’s just me.) “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” wasn’t tough at all, unless mechanized gastric juices bother you. It wasn’t the dancefloor moving forward, it was the dancefloor moving in a mesh of raw meat and bleeding metal while your central nervous system was all, “hey, is this industrial?” What made “H.B.F.S.” the best dance track since “Bizarre Love Triangle” was what it did to the pit of your stomach; it didn’t make you sick exactly, it turned you into a thrumming, sucking system of movement, inside out. Not much dance music denies free will—only the best. Hence the Jersey Shore guys beating their fists against the music makes sense, unless that makes you another kind of sick. Judge yourself. – Anthony Strain

Keep on blowin’ up, keep on blowin’ `em off

46. Spoon – “I Turn My Camera On”
(2005; Merge)

Compare it to Prince, the Bee Gees, or ’80s Stones if you like, but “I Turn My Camera On” is so much more than just an homage. Acting as the natural bridge from the genius of Kill the Moonlight to the more varied and mature Gimme Fiction, the single slinked into our lives with a throbbing bassline and a falsetto that would have even those fans who couldn’t hit a note singing along. Its immediacy and incredible groove led it to be used for Veronica Mars, Bones, Friday Night Lights, and yes, even The Simpsons. I don’t know about anyone else, but that spells success in my book. – Terrance Terich

It ain’t often that you’ll ever find a friend

45. Fleet Foxes – “Mykonos”
(2008; Sub Pop)

There is no song more dramatic in Fleet Foxes’ repertoire than “Mykonos.” I’ll admit, I heard their self-titled debut before I heard the Sun Giant EP, and thus missed out for a while on this amazing track. Once I heard it, however, I was knocked out. The band’s delicate vocal harmonies, juxtaposed later with the, appropriately enough, “Greek chorus” of the bridge over standstill silence are chill-inducing. I’m not going to venture to guess what the song is actually about, but it’s so damn good, it doesn’t really matter, does it? – Terrance Terich

I was following the pack

44. Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”
(2008; Sub Pop)

Caught somewhere between an Irish-bred Appalachian pastoral and Sunday morning choir practice, “White Winter Hymnal” is about as disorderly as it is sublime. Though made up of piecemeal lyrics that are virtually watertight against any sure interpretation – a pastiche of bucolic imagery and unexplained metaphors that may or may not signify much at all – the song is driven by little more than the Fleet Foxes’ sheer intuition. It conveys, rather than dictates, a sense of utter vulnerability, nearly violent even, without so much as a single concrete cue besides its brisk cadence, and how Robin Pecknold’s carefully chosen phrases offset one hell of an infectious melody. By that measure, “White Winter Hymnal” is about as perfect a song as any band could possibly muster. – Dustin Allen

Wild, white horses/ they will take me away

43. Portishead – “The Rip”
(2008; Island)

A ghostly hum and a finger-picked acoustic guitar playing a repetitive arpeggio set the stage for Beth Gibbon’s fragile voice, which appears like an apparition in the room, all mournful and elegant and frightening. A synth eventually swallows the guitar as a simple beat seeps into the fabric of the song, and Gibbons continues, devastatingly nonchalant. The whole thing fades, and in four-and-a-half minutes the trip-hop veterans have made their ten-plus year absence inconsequential, and have made every band that attempted to duplicate their style sound obsolete. – Eric Friedman

So poof! Vamoose son of a bitch

42. Jay-Z – “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”
(2001; Roc-a-fella)

Fershizzle my nizzle: you heard it here first. Or so I think: it’s all a blur. (“Not guilty/ ya’ll got ta feel me“) This is the anthem, actually; Jay-Z’s usually snobby as shit but “Izzo” is/was a working-class rouser, nothing plush-club inner-circle kamikaze about it. Which is what’s funny about Jay-Z; he’s never more serious than when he’s getting his hands dirty. He really ought to lighten up. Two blueprints later he hasn’t matched the cracking good time of this assembly-line cut cued to nothing special, just the college basketball fan: Izzo coaches where? Home of the terrapins is where? – Anthony Strain

It ripples our reflections

41. Radiohead – “Reckoner”
(2008; XL)

Radiohead has made plenty of beautiful music, but up until this point, the band had never been beautiful without reservation. It was always beautiful and—beautiful and tense, beautiful and frightening, beautiful and dripping with a sense of self-loathing or isolation. “Reckoner,” with Thom Yorke’s gorgeous falsetto soaring over syrupy strings and a rhythmic backdrop played on heavenly pots and pans, has no qualms about being straight-up gorgeous. Yorke is still going on about something vaguely menacing, but you’d never know it without the lyrics sheet. On In Rainbows, an album that sounded like Radiohead had finally gotten in touch with its soulful side, “Reckoner” is the undisputed emotional centerpiece. – Eric Friedman

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