The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

I want to walk around with you

90. Animal Collective – “Summertime Clothes”
(2009; Domino)

Most of Animal Collective’s singles up to this point have been helmed by Avey Tare, but with the release of Merriweather Post Pavilion, Panda Bear claimed vocal duties on two of its three outstanding 12-inch jams. That said, Tare’s “Summertime Clothes” is the most immediate and joyous of the three, a fairly straightforward pop bounce celebrating the sweaty, half-naked pleasures of the summer months. Trading his oddball yelp for an approachable and laid back narration (albeit one treated with effects), Avey observes the squeaking air conditioning, the smell of garbage, bedsheets sticky with human perspiration and ripe opportunities for shedding excess clothing. Even if a bit unconventional, it’s the closest the group’s come to throwing a beach party. – Jeff Terich

I’m a gad-dang rolling stone

89. The Roots ft. Cody ChestnuTT – “The Seed 2.0”
(2003; MCA)

At this point, it’s cliché to write about The Roots being a “real band” and in all honesty, it’s a pretty irrelevant statement to make. The Roots are a good hip-hop group, period, regardless of if they play live instruments or not. So much of this fixation was placed on this issue of “authenticity,” when at the end of the day the question was: did The Roots make good music? Not, are The Roots more “authentic” than other hip-hop groups. Yet when “The Seed 2.0” came out, it was one of the few Roots songs that emphasized the rawness and roughness of live instruments, rather than an attempt to mimic the slickness of pre-recorded beats and samples. Remaking Cody ChestnuTT’s ode to…uh, relations, The Roots tone down ChustnuTT’s rather unfortunate take on sex with Black Thought’s more responsible lyrics. The music itself is nearly enough to make-up for all of that. Tight snare hits by ?uestlove and a perfectly languid guitar riff gives “The Seed 2.0” a swagger that is positively alluring and sensual. – Jackie Im

Two fists of solid rock with brains that could explain

88. Cat Power – “The Greatest”
(2006; Matador)

Whether about a particular famous boxer, a nameless boxer figurehead, or even the boxer as metaphor, Cat Power’s “The Greatest” packs a powerful punch. Chan Marshall turns her soulful voice to a song relating a tale of the sweet science, namely, the heartbreaking aftermath of a life taking punches. It doesn’t sound like palatable fare for a balladic soul number, but then again, neither did a song about John Wayne Gacy and that turned out alright. But, Ms. Marshall could sing about a mangy dog with swine flu who mauled a drifter and I’d be a quivering mass of gelatin under the spell of her sultry voice. Oh, Chan Marshall, will you be my secret Santa? – Terrance Terich

I was just guessing at numbers and figures, pulling the puzzles apart

87. Coldplay – “The Scientist”
(2002; Parlophone)

“The Scientist” is still my favorite Coldplay song. You can have your “Yellow” and your “Clocks,” I’ll take “The Scientist.” Forget the clever backwards video and the overblown hype surrounding Coldplay. Like many great ballads, it’s about love, screwing up, and forgiveness. This, I suppose, is where Coldplay excels. Before something got into Chris Martin’s head and tried to get him to change his singing approach on Viva La Vida, his falsetto fit perfectly on “The Scientist.” Nobody said it was easy, indeed. – Terrance Terich

On a little road barely on the map

86. Feist – “Mushaboom”
(2004; Arts & Crafts)

Before the iPod commercials and charming “Sesame Street” appearance, Leslie Feist was just part of Broken Social Scene (albeit a standout part). Then came Let It Die, “Mushaboom,” and all of a sudden the path to stardom had opened wide for the Canadian songstress. What’s so glorious about this song is just how casual it is; not only are the lyrics a paean to the country life in Halifax, Nova Scotia (“planting lilacs and buttercups,” “old dirt road/ knee deep snow/ watching the fire as we grow old“), but the music is a warm and inviting shuffle, with snappy handclaps and tinkly piano joined by a triumphant trumpet as Feist sings that glorious chorus with her distinctive and beautiful voice. Feist’s next album, her international breakthrough, carried bigger songs with better production, but nothing on The Reminder comes close to the lived-in joy of “Mushaboom.” – Tony Ling

I’m almost home

85. Walkmen – “In the New Year”
(2009; Fierce Panda)

Somewhere between their second album, Bows + Arrows, and their most recent effort, You & Me, The Walkmen went from being a beautifully destructive winter storm to a powerful but emotionally draining autumn downpour. Yet the latter let up on a few occasions, most notably this fiery, epic single, one of the few confirmed cases of optimism within Hamilton Leithauser’s lyrics. It, too, does begin with a spate of darkness, but Leithauser acknowledges that it’s merely fleeting as he sings, “I’m waiting on the weather/ that I know will pass.” Yet even its bright and wonderful verses scarcely hint at the ascendant chorus, which so exuberantly declares “I know that it’s true/ it’s gonna be a good year.” And from there, the speakers blow, the confetti flies, and the prophecy has fulfilled itself. – Jeff Terich

You can have 21 sons and be blood when they marry my daughters

84. Yeasayer – “2080”
(2007; We Are Free)

We’ve got a good 70 years until this song’s title becomes the present, and even that seems a little bit too close for comfort. Unless, of course, you’re one of those Mayan calendar types that thinks we’re fucked regardless. But far away as that might seem, the fluttering effects at the onset of this single seem practically beamed from the future. It arrives like a silver jumpsuit-clad warning of the destruction ahead, soothsaying with a strangely backward message: “Don’t look ahead, ever look ahead.” If this is the music of the future, however, it sounds suspiciously like a rendezvous point between Fleetwood Mac and TV on the Radio, which would be nigh-century old reference points by then. Regardless, it’s two years old now, but still sounds advanced. As a debut single, it was a bold and forward-looking introduction, but it didn’t take long to sound classic. – Jeff Terich

I never understood at all

83. Jens Lekman – “Maple Leaves”
(2004; Secretly Canadian)

If ever there was a song that immediately conjured up images of autumn, it’s Jens Lekman’s amazing debut single. The sweeping string samples blanket everything with a bittersweet warmth that seems to fleck the song in patterns of yellow, orange and red. It’s a comforting chill, the caress of a wool sweater and the uncertainty of our incredibly likable Swedish narrator. Lekman vocalizes his romantic frustrations through impeccably delivered wordplay, lamenting “She said it was all make believe/ but I thought she said `maple leaves,’” and later on, “When you talked about The Fall/ I thought you talked about Mark E. Smith/ I never understood at all.” Lekman expertly mixes the melancholic with witty amusement, offering up a song that sounds absolutely perfect in all its hard-luck, lo-fi charm. – Jeff Terich

I must be fine because my heart’s still beating

82. The White Stripes – “Fell In Love With a Girl”
(2001; XL)

Everyone talks about how The Strokes were the band that sparked the rock `n’ roll revolution of the early ’00s. Nice try; to me it starts and ends with The White Stripes. I’ve always said that it was the opening chords to “Fell in Love with a Girl” that made blues-informed rock cool again, and rejuvenated the music industry with an explosive sound that was at the same time addicting and inspiring to a legion of new fans. And even though an incident of lust that Jack was singing about happened to me in 2006 in Chicago, “Fell In Love With a Girl” will always remind me of a summer love I had with a girl I knew in New Orleans. White’s singing about how we sometimes confuse the emotions of lust and love. At times they can feel stimulatingly similar, but as we’ve all discovered at the end of another broken love affair, one of those emotions is simply fleeting. I love the fact that “Fell in Love” is a short song—it echoes the sensation of being inside of a very intense crush. And just like those infatuations, they flicker away just as soon as they light that spark inside of you. Thankfully The White Stripes weren’t just a one hit wonder. “Fell in Love” introduced most of the world to Jack and Meg White. By the end of the decade, Detroit’s very own Jack White has become a renaissance rock icon with his many other successful side projects, from The Raconteurs to The Dead Weather. – Adrian Cepeda

His honor drove southward seeking exotica

81. Vampire Weekend – “A-Punk”
(2008; XL)

It’s commonplace by now for critics and fans alike to draw comparisons between Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon’s Graceland period. But “A-Punk,” one of the group’s biggest and best songs, shares little in common with “You Can Call Me Al” or “Diamonds on the Soles of their Shoes.” Rather, it’s a sprightly ska-pop song, more in line with The Selecter, or even The Police’s more upbeat, reggae-influenced tunes, and for that matter, it’s a hoot. Ezra Koenig’s lyrics are fairly inconsequential, narrating about some ring-snatching girl named Johanna and “His Honor,” who drives to try out some turquoise harmonicas in New Mexico. I’m just as puzzled as anyone else, but damn if it ain’t fun to skank to. – Jeff Terich

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