The Best Singles of the ’00s

Best Singles of the 00s

I’m going to Wichita

70. White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”
(2003; XL)

With a strident focus on a black/white/red color scheme that’s equal parts punk determination and full-fledged corporate identity, the Detroit duo’s neo-blues is something to be seen, not just heard. Their brand of garage rock has a swirling quality to it, enveloping the listener through speakeasy guitar screaming, Meg White’s muted and simplistic bass drum, and especially in Jack White hitching the lowest end of his strings to the latter in “Seven Nation Army.” It’s a lit fuse that eventually detonates into bitter anti-gossip missives—”And the message coming from my eyes/ Says leave it alone“—and the dizzying visuals now associated with the album and the band: red-and-white peppermint candy, this song’s triangle-obsessed video, even masses of pogoing sports fans who have turned its central riff into a football chant. – Adam Blyweiss

London calling, speak the slang

69. M.I.A. – “Galang”
(2004; XL)

Maya Arulpragasam—M.I.A. if you’re nasty—was a dichotomy from the start. From her earliest exposure to both the pop and indie worlds, the Sri Lankan/British diva made compositions suited equally well for world-music evangelists and ‘tronica hipsters. Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker suggested the music of M.I.A.’s debut Arular “could be the sound of a carnival, or a riot.” Cue this brazen, thrice-released single, its sing-song patois and fuzzy, clipped beats right at home backing a Honda commercial or underneath video of graffiti and gangsters. It was the first time M.I.A. would be in no particular place and yet everywhere at once. As evidenced a few years later by a sly Clash sample that would elevate her alongside the likes of Hova and Weezy, it wouldn’t be the last. – Adam Blyweiss

Because you’re too young…

68. Junior Boys – “In the Morning”
(2006; Domino)

Junior Boys are capable of placing the romantic and the sexual into fascinating tension, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the lead single from their second album, “In the Morning.” A collaboration between Jeremy Greenspan, Matt Didemus, and Mouse on Mars’ Andi Toma, the track pulses and fizzes over a steady, deliberate beat, Greenspan’s croons and whispers suggesting some sort of gentle seduction in a pristine landscape of glistening ice. More than any other song of the decade, “In the Morning” captures the spark of new wave nostalgia meshing with the production wizardry of less mainstream dance styles, making for a song that lives as much through what it suggests as what it is. – Tyler Parks

Don’t push me, I am not okay

67. Sleater-Kinney – “Jumpers”
(2005; Sub Pop)

Like much of The Woods, what makes “Jumpers” so unrepentantly fierce is its dense production that captures every ounce of aggression and reckless momentum of the band’s stark dynamic, and hoists it to the forefront where they can be bled and relished in all their thunderous brilliance. Beyond that, though, Sleater-Kinney are simply at full form here both melodically and structurally. A slurred duet between Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein is set against a simple yet punchy dual-tone guitar hook, wobbly solos are cut short by thickened percussive rushes, and Tucker’s pinched vocals range from full-volume yowls to tight phrases to let the song’s hell-bent inertia stay its course. Nearly every track on The Woods could have warranted its own single, so picking “Jumpers” may seem like a toss-up. But it’s also Sleater-Kinney’s most concise, distilled version of everything this album achieves so well and, now that they’re disbanded, one hell of a farewell. – Dustin Allen

Couldn’t be alone

66. Burial – “Archangel”
(2007; Hyperdub)

Dubstep is literally the music of small steps, having been built on a foundation of quiet, sneaking digital menace, but even this late-decade sub-subgenre primed itself for a giant leap. This mercurial British DJ’s second album, 2007’s Untrue, sounds like he used rainy British alleyways as his studio and the ghosts of long-gone soul singers and dearly departed club kids for production help. The lead single’s hollow and bassy click-clack beats, bouncing around like the sexiest game of racquetball ever played, support a distorted and disembodied voice lifted from Ray J’s “One Wish.” “Loving you/ Couldn’t be alone/ Kissing you” was an abstract, almost contextless mantra on loss and longing, dimming the light “Archangel” and its R&B tinges shone on a rather dark corner of dance music. – Adam Blyweiss

She’s the dirty witch of her high school

65. M83 – “Graveyard Girl”
(2008; Mute)

Dreamwave is supposed to be exclusive to L.A. blog bands and it’s a real treat to hear enthusiasts talk about its tenets. Basically if you can’t play it driving down Franklin Avenue at room temperature it’s not dreamwave, which they only think is tough criteria. At any rate “Graveyard Girl” pulls the tawniest elements of that sound like taffy, soaking a leftover dune buggy in goth graffiti and hauling ass toward the nearest Ferris wheel. For M83 this was not necessarily familiar language; things were always pretty austere. But on Saturdays=Youth Gonzales moved in a more unmitigatedly-pop direction and one of the results was a synth-guitar single perfect no matter what you call it. – Anthony Strain

Another un-innocent elegant fall into the un-magnificent lives of adults

64. The National – “Mistaken For Strangers”
(2007; Beggars Banquet)

An inferior band called The Wombats wrote a song a few years back called “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” a song that somehow rather wisely summed up the alt-rock scene of the mid-2000s. At the time, everyone from Editors to Interpol to She Wants Revenge seemingly got their Ian Curtis on and made bank on it. Often more thoughtful and complex than these acts, and certainly more critically acclaimed than most, Brooklyn rockers The National showed up late to this particular party but nevertheless played the gloom-and-doom to the hilt on their killer lead single from 2007’s Boxer. Guitars chiming in minor keys, rolling drum fills, and in particular Matt Berninger’s isolationist lyrics mumbled in a familiar wobbly baritone—”You wouldn’t want an angel watching over you? Surprise surprise, they wouldn’t want to watch“—even won over listeners not otherwise smitten with the band. – Adam Blyweiss

Just leave me out, you name dropper

63. Santigold – “L.E.S. Artistes”
(2008; Downtown)

Yeah, it kinda sounds like Tegan and Sara, but is that such a bad thing? And is it a bad thing to take that formula, brass it the hell up, add some piercing synthesizers and even more authoritative drums, and tack on a chorus so anthemic it’s a wonder it hasn’t already appeared in 100 movie trailers? Or is it a bad thing to use this powerful musical bed to take potshots at East Coast hipsters and the coolerati? The answer, quite obviously is “hell no,” and the result of the above mixture, “L.E.S. Artistes,” is proof of that. Santigold’s first album is full of similar revelations (“Lights Out,” “Creator”), but none of them have quite the same powerful heft and fuck-you sneer of this song. No wonder Santi White chose this as the leadoff track – she wanted that middle finger right out there, at the start, for all her doubters to see. – Tony Ling

It’s hard to keep track of you falling through the sky

62. The National – “Fake Empire”
(2007; Beggars Banquet)

I’m surprised I’m writing this mini-review. It’s not that I don’t love “Fake Empire.” In fact, I do love it. The National is one of those bands who grew exponentially on me every time I heard them. In fact, I’m more than a little peeved that “So Far Around the Bend” didn’t make our final list. But, along with that track and “Mr. November,” “Fake Empire” is one of my favorite National songs. So why am I surprised? Well, for a few reasons. For one, it’s a gorgeous tune, from the first light piano chords to the fanfare at the close. The lyrics are deceptively simple, most likely meaning much more than can be gleaned from first listen. But, more than anything else, this song was part of my little bro’s, our boss’, wedding playlist. So, I was sure he was going to take it. But, I couldn’t be happier to take it on. Matt Berninger’s voice is magnetic in this track, lulling the listener into the dreamworld depicted in the lyrics. Like many of The National’s songs, it’s exquisitely constructed, but “Fake Empire” in particular is exceptional. – Terrance Terich

This one will know how far I live on

61. Broken Social Scene – “Stars and Sons”
(2003; Arts & Crafts)

Through single and EP releases, as well as videos, Broken Social Scene launched at least five singles from You Forgot It In People. And when you consider that two of that album’s 13 tracks are essentially ambient interludes, that’s about half the album. Of course, they’re all incredible, but “Stars and Sons,” oddly enough, is the unlikely triumph, a song that doesn’t really sound like a single, but never fails to win over anyone within earshot. Brendan Canning plays a low-key, breathy frontman to the band as they build up a steady, seemingly endless groove. The changes come minimally, but when they happen, they explode like fireworks, from the rapid succession of handclaps to the squalls of noise near the end. “Cause=Time” or “Almost Crimes” or “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” could just as easily occupy this space, but by playing it cool, Brendan’s got this. – Jeff Terich

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