MXDWN’s Favorite Songs of the Decade

December 31st, 2009
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With the birth and growth of the MP3 as the default way to experience music over the last ten years, individual songs have been given an even brighter spotlight over their parent albums, often abandoning them altogether. The 100 choice tracks listed below reflect some of the best genres, albums, artists, and individual moments of sonic achievement of the decade. Here are MXDWN’s Favorite Songs of the ’00s. Keep checking back as various writers chime in with reflections on personal picks…

100. Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams
“Boulevard” is the hero’s anthem of American Idiot, the rock opera from Green Day (Green Day?!) that gave rock audiences and record biz execs alike hope in a flailing industry. It ambles along at a mid-tempo beat, just as the hero ambles down the desolate boulevard, proclaiming the sad fact of his existence: “I walk alone,” with nothing but a “shallow heart” and his own shadow for company. Green Day reconnected with a modern rock audience on American Idiot, and – as they did in the old days – connected with the disaffected fourteen-year-old in all of us thanks to songs like “Boulevard,” which emphasize tried-and-true teenage themes of alienation and rebellion, as opposed to their previous standbys of apathy and masturbation. Way to grow up, guys! – Alyssa Fried

99. Daft Punk – Digital Love

98. Johnny Cash – God’s Gonna Cut You Down
As magnificently as Johnny Cash covered relatively current songs like Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” the Beatles’ “In My Life,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and most notably, Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” he doesn’t sound so true to himself as when performing a country-gospel standard like “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” Rhythm is kept by a stomp and a clap reminiscent of whips cracking and Cash sings with a vengeance so true and so fierce one can only believe him to be a man who has been on the wrong side of God’s hand. – Alyssa Fried

97. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1

96. Daft Punk – Face to Face

95. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks

94. Boards of Canada – Chromakey Dreamcoat

93. The Decemberists – Sons and Daughters
Colin Meloy bared his English-major teeth on 2005’s The Crane Wife, the Decemberists’ major label debut, citing a Japanese folk tale and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” as influences. “Sons and Daughters” closes the set, lyrically narrating the post-war immigration of a people looking to build new lives in a fairy-tale fashion – with floating houses made of aluminum and a diet of cinnamon. Even as a chant of “Hear all the bombs / fade away” rises and the listener is reminded of the horrors only recently escaped, the emphasis remains on the hope for the future – the indefatigable spirit of the immigrant to which most Americans can relate. – Alyssa Fried

92. Sonic Youth – Incinerate
You know that despairing phrase, “I’m so far behind, I must be first”? Well, this big single from Rather Ripped finds Thurston, Kim, and company de-tuned so far that they seem right back in tune, chugging through nearly five minutes of pleasing, plangent melody. – Adam Blyweiss

91. The Avalanches – Since I Left You

90. Beck – E-Pro
Beck opens his highest-charting album of the ’00s with this garage-dance anthem, built on a solid foundation of a live drum beat and an addictively repetitive guitar riff. Toss in a few “Na-Nas,” some classic Beck lyrics like “Hammer my bones on the anvil of daylight,” and a hand-clapping bridge, and the party’s begun before you can wonder what “E-Pro” even means. – Alyssa Fried

89. Queens of the Stone Age – Go With the Flow
A single chord hit on a piano at a consistent eighth-note pace keeps the tension high on this terse track from Songs for the Deaf. Underscored by crunchy guitar and bass — not to mention Dave Grohl’s trademark pummel, an ace frequently up the band’s sleeve — the song delivers the danger of a white rapids-to-waterfall drop belied by the title and Josh Homme’s lyrics about an apathetic romance. – Alyssa Fried

88. The White Stripes – Hotel Yorba
An early track on their breakthrough album White Blood Cells, “Hotel Yorba” introduced the band’s new audience, drawn in by the garage-punk hit “Fell in Love with a Girl,” to their bouncy country side. Trading a fuzzed-out electric for a warm acoustic strum, the song is as sparse as any other on the album, with a literal floorboard stomp and Jack White’s plaintive vocals to keep it repeating in your head. – Alyssa Fried

87. TV on the Radio – Staring at the Sun

86. Peter, Bjorn & John – Young Folks

85. Animal Collective – My Girls

84. TV on the Radio – I Was a Lover
Nothing demonstrates Return to Cookie Mountain’s broken-but-still-hopeful optimism better than “I Was a Lover.” Impassioned to an almost surly snarl over a jerky, looped string section, it’s as beautiful as teeth-gnashings come. – Ryan Lewis

83. Radiohead – The National Anthem
A standout from the phenomenal Kid A, “Anthem’”s unforgettable bass line, intermittent horns, and blaring tubas steal the show from Thom Yorke’s soaring robot cries. The finale, a trumpet-lined jam session, is organized chaos at its best. – Ryan Lewis

82. The New Pornographers – Letter from an Occupant

81. Boards of Canada – In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country
Talk about sow’s ears and silk purses. The world’s best purveyors of IDM manage to make one of the decade’s most calming electronic meditations with references to the tragic Branch Davidian compound fire in Waco, Texas hidden in plain sight. – Adam Blyweiss

80. Justin Timberlake – SexyBack

79. Radiohead – All I Need

78. The Arcade Fire – Intervention

77. Phoenix – 1901

76. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig! Lazarus Dig!

75. LCD Soundsystem – North American Scum

74. Bloc Party – Helicopter

73. Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal

72. Antony & the Johnsons – Hope There’s Someone

71. Radiohead – Optimistic

70. The Decemberists – The Shankill Butchers

69. The Knife – Heartbeats
Criminally ignored Stateside until it was covered by folkie Jose Gonzales, this signature single from Swedish siblings Olaf Dreijer and Karin Dreijer-Andersson wears it’s frosted synth-pop heart on its sleeve, spinning a tale of all-too-brief love with an aching nostalgia as poignant and resonant as any Top 40 drivel in recent memory. – Robert Huff

68. Gnarls Barkley – Smiley Faces

67. Santigold – L.E.S. Artistes

66. Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor

65. The Killers – Mr. Brightside

64. Radiohead – Idioteque

63. Kanye West – Stronger

62. Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At?

61. DJ Shadow – Mashing on the Motorway

60. Jay-Z – Big Pimpin’

59. The Chemical Brothers – Star Guitar

58. Missy Elliot – Work It

57. The Shins – New Slang

56. Portishead – Machine Gun

55. Radiohead – Pyramid Song

54. Burial – Archangel

53. The Postal Service – Such Great Heights

52. The White Stripes – The Hardest Button to Button

51. The Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)

50. The Strokes – Someday

49. Coldplay – Clocks

48. Andrew W.K. – Party Hard

47. The Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

46. The White Stripes – Ball and Biscuit

45. Sufjan Stevens – Chicago

44. Wilco – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

43. Queens of the Stone Age – No One Knows

42. Hercules and Love Affair – Blind

41. Justice – D.A.N.C.E.

40. Kanye West – Gold Differ

39. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.

38. The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist

37. The New Pornographers – The Bleeding Heart Show

36. Hot Chip – Over and Over

35. Yeah Yeah Yeah – Maps

34. Interpol – Obstacle 1

33. The Rapture – House of Jealous Lovers

32. The Roots – Seed 2.0

31. Kanye West – Jesus Walks

30. LCD Soundsystem – Someone Great

29. Coldplay – Yellow

28. M.I.A. – Galang

27. Battles – Atlas

26. MGMT – Time to Pretend

25. Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out

24. LCD Soundsystems – All My Friends

23. Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On

22. Kanye West – Love Lockdown

21. The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize?

20. MGMT – Kids

19. Johnny Cash – Hurt
Johnny Cash’s faithful cover of Nine Inch Nails’ signature ballad “Hurt” (a song originally meant to be the last glimmer of hope in an otherwise tragic “downward spiral”) is a heartbreaking rendition. Unfortunately released and heralded in the last stretch of the brilliant singer’s life, this performance takes introspection to another level. – Raymond Flotat

18. Outkast – Ms. Jackson
“Hey Ya” may have solidified rap’s first album of the year Grammy, but it was “Ms. Jackson” that put Outkast’s career on the fast track. Complete with time-reversed samples, a meandering guitar take on the “Bridal Chorus” and a playful piano melody, “Ms. Jackson” combines cool, charisma and caution. Also, the song boasts numerous moments which are now famous and highly quoted, including Andre 3000’s interrogative, “Forever ever… forever ever?” Here’s to hoping Outkast is able to join up and recreate the creative spark that made this such a revelatory song. – Raymond Flotat

17. Outkast – Hey Ya!

16. Radiohead – Everything in its Right Place

15. Outkast – B.O.B.

14. Daft Punk – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” is perhaps the most brilliant realization of what is possible from electronic music to date. Using only a handful of phrases and a pattern of splashy cymbals, the masters of French house music create an awe-inspiring orchestra. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” started off with an impression that it was clever and as the decade progressed, that impression bloomed into that it was a modern classic. – Raymond Flotat

13. Vampire Weekend – A-Punk
With springy, upbeat ska-like riffs and just the right amount of floating keyboard melodies, Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk” is a compelling argument for all that is successful about the band’s sudden success. The song is effervescent, a youthful romp that joyfully prances on to its conclusion. The band doesn’t bog itself down in weighty constructions, they keep things simple and pleasant. – Raymond Flotat

12. TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
The lead single from TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain is perhaps its most straightforward and rocking number. Instead of any of the lush atmospherics that normally accompany their work, “Wolf Like Me” is driving and relentless. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe crafts a menacing lycanthrope’s tale all in punchy, short lyrical bursts. This was the first evidence of TV on the Radio solidly finding their voice. – Raymond Flotat

11. LCD Soundsystem – Daft Punk is Playing at My House

10. Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
Early in the decade, the “cartoon” band Gorillaz (really Blur’s Damon Albarn and Dan the Automator) struck a massive chord on the college scene with this crossover classic. With a simple hook by Albarn—”I ain’t happy / I’m feelin’ glad / I got sunshine / in a bag / I’m useless / but not for long / the future / is coming on”—a playful to-and-fro beat lurches forward as Del the Funky Homosapien guides the songs with some of the best rhymes of his career. It may not have had the dance floor appeal that “11-2000″ did, but this was the song that really jumped out at listeners, proving indie, alternative and dance could mix together extremely well. – Raymond Flotat

9. The Strokes – Last Nite

8. Jay-Z – 99 Problems

7. The White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl

6. M.I.A. – Paper Planes
With this left-field pop juggernaut, and the rest of the formidable album from which it came for that matter, one can’t be sure whether all M.I.A. wanted to do was shoot us down and take our money as the chorus dictates. Nevertheless, everyone was indeed blown away by the song’s innovative inversion of The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” (electro-Clash, indeed) for a hook sunny enough to sell illegal immigration strife as radio gold, and the critical exposure and subsequent acclaim that followed it did indeed vault Kala to astronomical commercial success for any indie artist (right down to Grammy nods), let alone a Sri Lanka by way of London globe-trotter who couldn’t even secure a Visa during the recording of the album. – Robert Huff

5. Modest Mouse – Float On

4. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
Literally a “feel good hit of the summer,” Gnarls Barkley exploded onto the scene in 2006 with this ode to insanity (or possibly just going insane). Danger Mouse, fresh off making his bones with MF Doom on the Danger Doom project and with Damon Albarn on the Gorillaz’ Demon Days, crafted a concise track filled with epic flourishes, a perfect backing track to Cee-Lo’s soulful vocals. “Crazy” literally took over modern radio and dance floors alike, proving a straightforward rhythm and a solid melody is still all it takes to capture listeners’ ears. – Raymond Flotat

3. Radiohead – House of Cards
For Radiohead, “House of Cards” is an almost leisurely meditation. Thom Yorke’s voice is a murmur against patient guitar chords. The chords are strummed lightly while a tremolo-picked note is balanced against it. Like In Rainbows‘ other standout track “All I Need,” “House of Cards” manages to comfort and challenge simultaneously. – Raymond Flotat

2. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
A simple riff comprised of only seven notes makes up this unforgettable number. Hot on the heels of the success of White Blood Cells, “Seven Nation Army” was The White Stripes’ lead single off of their follow-up, Elephant. Sounding a little less rough-around-the-edges, Jack White’s voice here deftly navigates wide ranges of key, shouting at one point, nimbly dancing on a falsetto melody at another. Music may progress at an astounding rate, but it’s worth noting that when this came out nearly everyone had the words “I’m going to fight ‘em off / A seven nation army couldn’t hold me back” on the tip of their tongue. – Raymond Flotat

1. Daft Punk – One More Time
The second it’s over, you want it all back. The escalating throb. The sharp, precise stabs of synth and keyboard. That affirmation that “music makes me feel so real, I want to celebrate.” Such a sentiment could arguably summarize any year in music over the past four decades, but nevertheless topped how MXDWN felt about this decade more than any other. Few songs over the last ten years unified people in fun and feeling at any given time as this one did, whether it was in a club, on the radio, or at what has to be countless college parties even today. Like the album Discovery that it leads off, “One More Time” is an instantly infectious rush of positive energy, letting all else slip away in favor of the eternally enthusiastic now. When it’s on, all you’ll want to do is dance, and when it’s over, all you’ll want to do is hear it… well, you know. – Robert Huff

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By Robert Huff Posted in Features


Related Best of Decade Content:

Features
MXDWN’s Favorite Songs of the Decade
MXDWN’s Favorite Albums of the Decade

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