This should be subtitled “(that were on Spotify)”. It’s by no means definitive or complete, even according to my personal preference. None of Jay-Z’s good 00s records are on Spotify, and as much as my kneejerk reaction was, “Good. To hell with Jay-Z,” no account of what I liked at the time or what I still like now would be truly whole without him. Boris’ “Smile”, one of my favorite albums of the decade, is missing. “What You Can’t See Is” by Cryptacize, “Cop Shot” by Dead Prez, “I Live In A Trailer Park” by Everything, Now!, Clipse – “We Got It 4 Cheap Volume 2″… Whither goest Bunky?
I do, however, feel better about this than any list I could have made in 2009. We’re inevitably prisoners of one moment or another. Some things age better than others (Guess what? “Hey Ya” is pretty irritating!). These are not the songs that have “stood the test of time” because the test of time often passes complete crap, and because the test of time is never truly over, until we’re dead. What I can say is that 10 years of perspective have made the choosing of what songs go here a little less arbitrary. I said, “A little.”
200. The Horrors – Sea Within A Sea (2009) Campy goth UK It Boys, The Horrors, came of age nicely on their second album, which closed with this rangy kosmische epic, foretelling their excellent work over the the next decade. 199. Love Is All – Felt Tip (2005) The jittery Gothenburg punks slow it down to sensuous effect on what would become the highlight of their IED of a debut. Two other album cuts made up the b-side, but only “Felt Tip” was too perfect to re-record. 198. Neon Indian – Deadbeat Summer (2009) Over a heat-warped Rundgren vamp, “Deadbeat Summer” resuscites idylls in cars with no A/C, mixtapes melting in the coin tray. Its low-stakes romance is chillwave tincture any time the heat gets oppressive. 197. Andrea Parker, DJ Assault, DJ Godfather – Freaky Bitches (2002) Andrea Parker endured many patronizing questions about bass music’s misogyny. “I don’t give a fuck,” she’d say. But this ghettotech classic is the final word. 196. Cannibal Ox – Iron Galaxy (2000) El-P chose Cannibal Ox, and this song, to launch his new label, Definitive Jux. That partnership would only last one album, but what a doozy. “Iron Galaxy” remains superhero music for dark times. 195.La Roux – In for The Kill (Skream’s Let’s Get Ravey Mix) (2009) “Where’s the drop?” At dubstep’s nadir, the 50-second mark of every song. But this pioneering remix is a study in delayed gratification and a linchpin in the genre’s crossover. 194. Max Tundra – Number Our Days The singular producer of abstruse, low-attention-span electronic pop plays it as straight as he can on this Scritti Politti-like synthfunk banger about how unrequited love is like death, or the other way around. 193 Metallica – The Day That Never Comes (2008) Mastered so badly it caused an inflection point in the loudness wars, it’s still a razor-sharp death ride. Brick wall waveform and all, it belongs in the ‘tallican pantheon. 192. Osborne – 16th Stage (2008) Todd Osborn has put out drill ‘n’ bass records on Planet Mu and Rephlex as the scarily named Soundmurderer. Here, he offers a spiritual calm and comfort, like Arthur Russell singing to himself in the back of an empty church. 191. The Boy Least Likely To – Be Gentle With Me (2003) By the 00s, twee pop had lost its underdog appeal. This song was in a Coca-Cola commercial. Advertisers liked its “teach the world to sing” bounce, but what endures is its central conceit: everything is trying to kill you. 190. Pictureplane – Goth Star (2009) “Goth Star” blunts the surly mug of so much dark electronic music with glam rock pomp and a choir of corpse-painted Stevie Nicks vocaloids. This guy coined the term “witch house.” I wish we’d had more goth stars instead. 189. Múm – We Have A Map of the Piano (2002) A biome in a raindrop. Insect clicks march to distant drums. Lazy guitar weathervanes oscillate while sonar piano pings surface in ASMR whispers. This song’s protozoa make their own music. 188. DJ Shadow, Turf Talk, Keak da Sneak – 3 Freaks (2005) DJ Shadow reasserted his Bay area roots as hip-hop briefly turned its attention there. Two of its wildest voices bring anarchic glee to a cartoonish beat. It sounds like its time and place in all the right ways. 187. Starflyer 59 – New Wife, New Life (2003) SF59 never sounded more fun than they did with Frank Lenz and Richard Swift adding a Cars-like chug to the typically wheezy mediations on aging. “New Wife” fizzes like champagne—the “fun” part of a mid-life crisis. 186. Joel Alme – The Queen’s Corner (2008) This baroque pop gem’s first notes are a cacaphony of strings and pounding piano. Alme’s voice is artless as Jeff Mangum’s, soulful as Bobby Hatfield’s. He’s Gothenburg, Sweden’s troubadour, now let him be yours. 185. Deftones, Rodleen Getsic – Knife Prty (2000) By 2000, these nu metal pioneers were over it. An “Everlong”-like intro erupts not in seven-string squawks, but Siamese dreams. No moshpit stoking breakdown, just Rodleen Getsic shrieking for the Great Ozzfest Gig in The Sky. 184. Warren Zevon – I Was in the House When the House Burned Down (2000) Zevon’s “Life’ll Kill Ya” is called morbid, mournful, or—crudely—prescient (he died in ’03). In fact, it’s as sanguine about death as the acedia of living. Besides, this one was written for David Crosby. 183. Ambulance LTD – Ophelia (2004) “Ophelia” sounds like a band that had it all. Beatlesque melodies, country/soul undertones, and Velvets ‘tude. Label bankruptcy scattered them to the four winds. Their frontman sued for the name, but nothing came of it. 182. Constantines – Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright) (2003) In the 00s, it was 1977 again, but Ontario’s Constantines doused the rock revival with gas and gave out matches. “Nighttime” was a patriotic hymn for true North American scum. 181. Sleater-Kinney – Was It A Lie? (2000) Corin Tucker’s lyrics express disgust at real death becoming just another piece of mass media. Oh boy, would it get a lot worse. “Was It A Lie?” is anointing and the laying on of hands for an incurable modern illness. 180. Stephen Malkmus – Church on White (2001) Playful lyricism is here in oblique metaphor and ironic cliché, but “Church on White” isn’t playing. A sigh of grief and guilt scored by a mournful Skynyrd guitar lead, it tips its hand in a way few SM songs do. 179.Rihanna, Jay-Z – Umbrella (2007) Imagine, this song was “edgy” for Rihanna. Innocent, but still authoritative, it’s a ruthlessly maxed-out spider chart of pop, r&b, hip-hop, and rock. “Eh-eh”-ing copycats would infect the charts hereafter. Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall – Still Tippin’ (2004) Without Mike Jones and Cham’s feud, would this “remix” exist? Would I know Paul Wall? Slightly slower than the original, with that sinister violin snaking around, this deserves to be (and is) the definitive version. 177. Andrew Bird – Fake Palindromes (2005) A wordy, macabre short story hangs on the Chicagoan’s most immediately pleasing song. His violin winds up like far-off thunder, cuing a guitar that sounds like lightning striking power lines. 176. Bottomless Pit – The Cardinal Movements (2007) An unjust death ended the band Silkworm. The survivors returned heavier, darker. This song unloads insights about depression, grief, and pessimist’s hope like a stevedore, each one landing like 30 tons of Corten steel. 175. Aaliyah – We Need A Resolution (2001) This is here because “Try Again” isn’t. But both show how Timbaland and Static Major seemed to be reinventing r&b with each song. Aaliyah, more than game, buys in 100% and owns each hairpin turn. 174. Palms – New Moon (2008) I know nothing about this band except it was a Berlin-NYC correspondence project. Palms’ only record lacks a sure identity, as correspondence art often does, but a record full of alien, ethereal ambient pop like this could have been a classic. 173. Tom Waits – Hoist That Rag (2004) This remastered version probably does more justice to the song overall, but the original is one long buildup to Marc Ribot’s brain-melting guitar solo, and I have to wonder if that isn’t a higher purpose. 172. Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out (2004) This is a novelty song. Not the new Duran Duran, the new Rednex. But the fakeout intro. The hall-of-fame lead riff. The big a capella break. It’s a hockey arena staple, a generation’s drunken singalong, and a brilliant novelty song. 171. Pernice Brothers – Sometimes I Remember (2003) Alt-country lifer Joe Pernice was never coy about his love of 80s UK new wave, but it was a long time before influence gave way to imitation. “Sometimes I Remember” still glows with the joy of earned, honest homage. 170. Schneider TM, Kpt.michi.gan – The Light 3000 (2000) This glitchy refit of the Smiths’ iconic song was likely just a fun tribute, but its recycled nature and screenlit hour-of-the-wolf alienation may as well be Genesis 1:1 for internet era-pop. 169. Iron & Wine, Calexico, Salvador Duran – He Lays in the Reins (2005) On this standout, Calexico place Sam Beam’s tender harmonies in a moonlit desert. Mambo singer Salvador Duran’s hook adds mythic scale to a humble song. 168. Pet Shop Boys – Did You See Me Coming? (2009) Pet Shop Boys usually cut their love songs with cynicism, melancholy, or both. At last, a song of pure (double entendre aside) joy from a then-55 year-old Neil Tennant’s lips. It pulls your heart strings in a different way. 167. Shakira – She Wolf (2009) Shakira’s always had a lovably goofy side, but on “She Wolf” she’s reveling entirely in wordy, awkward simile and campy lust over a robotically funky Italo disco track (co-written by Sam Endicott of the Bravery? Ok!). 166. The xx – Islands (2009) Coincidence? In a repertoire of languid duets mouthed across pillows, only “Islands” casts no shadow of doubt, of illegible otherness, over its besotted lovers. It’s their—maybe indie music’s—”Islands in the Stream,” which was also written by British people. 165. Clint Mansell, Kronos Quartet – Lux Aeterna (2000) This, the leitmotif from “Requiem For A Dream,” casts a longer shadow than the movie itself. Its mood of stately unease, building to a face-tearing crescendo is become the default mood of dramatic film scoring. 164. The Mary Onettes – Void (2007) It’s the same careerist mix of cool Reagan-era influences as so many 00s postpunk revivalists, but “Void” is a thrilling, headlong dive into the abyss that deserves the rare comparison with its forebears. 163. Roísín Murphy – You Know Me Better (2007) This album is the mold Lady Gaga sprang from. Maybe if this had been the first single, not the third, Roísín Murphy would have an oscar, but I doubt it. She ends up breaking each mold she makes. 162. Elton John – This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore (2001) The icon goes back to his roots, just a man at a piano. He earns and mocks the gravitas that implies with a shuffling, unsentimental reflection of bitterness and self-pity. 161. Grouper – Invisible (2008) Liz Harris makes very quiet music with the arresting energy of harsh noise. “Invisible” is a koan of sounds and syllables with one unsettling phrase left discernible, inviting you into her headspace, but at your own risk. 160. Buddy Guy – Look What All You Got (2001) An anomaly in a decade of sterile éminence bleue records, “Sweet Tea” was a piercing scream into a hot mic. His friend T-Model Ford’s “Look What All You Got” is here made into a gnarly, Shellac-esque bludgeon. 159. Excepter – The “Rock” Stepper (2006) The Brooklyn noiseniks’ queasy faux dancehall goof still holds a strange power over me. It’s as if they tried to make something unforgivably awful and failed miserably. A five-dimensional Rubix cube of bad taste. 158. Crystal Skulls – No Room For Change (2005) There was a band whose family tree includes Pedro the Lion, Fleet Foxes, The Shins, and Sufjan Stevens. They turned math rock chops into sophisticated jazz pop. A decade too soon, I guess. 157. The Knife – Heartbeats (2002) The Knife’s digital steel drums and buzzsaw synths got old first to themselves, but echoed throughout the next decade. It didn’t hurt that “Heartbeats” is as perfect a pop song as anyone wrote over the same period of time. 156. Tim Hecker – Chimeras (2006) Now a towering presence in drone/ambient music, Hecker’s reputation started its ascent with this record. “Chimeras” is a succinct, addictive crystallization of his mastery at heaving ghostly atmospheres into uncanny life. 155. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Every Night I Die at Miyagis (2003) Ariel Pink nonplussed know-it-all critics. His songs were “conventional,” they said, as if anyone could write this if they wanted to. Why did HE want to? He explains, “I crazy like EE-DEE-AWT, HA HA!” 154. Jamie Lidell, Chilly Gonzales – Multiply (In A Minor Key) (2005) Piano maestro and producer Chilly Gonzales turns Jamie Lidell’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” riff into a boozy, impromptu party favor, and by the end the whole room is spinning and singing. 153. The Middle East – The Darkest Side (2009) If Isaac Brock fronted Belle & Sebastian, and other silly comps I have made to get more people to listen to The MIddle East, who imploded on the cusp of a breakthrough. 152. The Wrens – Boys, You Won’t (2003) Pop punk/Emo kids are well into middle age now. Maybe the Wrens warned us in 03, with breakup songs that seemed more about friendships, bands, houses, and self-identities dissolving than romances. 151. Spoon – Me and the Bean (2001) This cover of Austin songwriter John Clayton was, for a time, a pregnant pause. Ready to pack it in, Spoon had had their shot, and got screwed. You can hear anger punching despair into resolve in real time. SEE YOU NEXT TIME!