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“Dolby’s Top 100 Rock Songs of the ’00s”


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100 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “White Palms”

It’s crazy but I’m a pretty big music junkie and I think the last recommendation somebody made to me that I actually LIKED happened to be this very album, a debut which I guess is technically titled B.R.M.C. and therefore not officially “self-titled.” Overall, it’s ample, well-rounded, dark and rocking and this song makes an interesting centerpiece for scaling back the psychedelic guitar effects and adamantly harboring itself around a pummeling, infectious bass riff and some of the most shocking sacrilege ever transmitted in rock.

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99 The Shins – “Turn a Square”

Part of what makes this song so good to me is that it’s on a classic album and there’s really no other song like it on there, those jagged riffs more than imploring some foot tapping and some romantic lyrics that are refreshingly self-deprecating, certainly by today’s standards.

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98 Mastodon – “Crystal Skull”

Carrying on the proud torch of Southern metal from their ’90s New Orleans kinsmen Acid Bath, Mastodon crank out what in a way is median heavy metal but have a nice way of moving songs along and not being too long-winded or indulgent, letting their copious musical ideas clear the path.

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97 Grizzly Bear – “Southern Point”

Right away this band’s enormous multitude of eclectic influences is more than present on this lithe, graceful Veckatimest opener, with bongos gracing a full guitar but flanking a song itself which comes nowhere near any indulgent climax, at least not for a while. Instead, it tiptoes along with intricate classical arpeggios and otherworldly vocals and lyrics from Daniel Rossen, crying out to the skies for some much-needed divinity and meaning.

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96 Radiohead – “Backdrifts.”

When Radiohead’s album Hail to the Thief came out in 2003, we were basically at a certain orgiastic plateau in music when it was just EXPECTED that bands would throw bewildering and stupefying elements into their albums, like the strange instrument that opens this song which I think might be the “ondes Martenot,” as Wikipedia lists on the album page. Really, this exact sonic staple is what drives this song, with a relatively spare but still light and breezy vocal performance from Thom Yorke corralling it into distinct Radiohead completeness.

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95 Ween – “Bananas and Blow”

Honestly, Ween’s sound and production have always been pretty good, but I think the success they enjoyed in the ’90s, if only as a cult act, was still paramount in potentiating their knack for writing, like, actual songs — it must have been their acquisition of an actual live drummer. Other than that, Ween are pretty much doing here what they always did, erecting unspeakably bizarre and catchy tunes and generally having fun being weirder than it would be physically possible for any other band to be.

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94 TOOL – “Ticks & Leeches”

TOOL’s third album Lateralus got a conspicuously foul review on Pitchfork but I know all hardcore TOOL fans approve of it and I always thought it moved along with a nice energy and grit, for what that’s worth. Here we have certainly an energetic high point with Adam Jones whipping out some noxious distortion on that guitar and Danny Carey diving on to some tom mania that’s closer to grind than anything we’d heard from this band erstwhile.

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93 The Black Keys – “10 A.M. Automatic”

We were all pretty wowed by Rubber Factory when it came out in ’04, I think, and for all the leveling you could do against it in the department of originality it just seemed to rock with such a zeal and swagger as to obstinately render it fresh, in spite of itself. “10 A.M. Automatic” is probably the grower of the group, shirking the blues scale for straight-up, Boston-style classic rock, amped up with plenty more grit and disillusioned independence than most could summon from that epoch, possibly.

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92 The Strokes – “Last Nite”

“Last Nite” chugs along with that same rhythm you get in The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” but you don’t care because it’s so groovy and fun. What’s more, this mix is absolutely something to behold, with some of the most delicate and harmonious guitar layering ever recorded. The dual axe attack of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. makes for that uncanny chord modification you don’t hear too often and then the cheap, garage-y sound of Fab Moretti’s drums pushes things ebulliently into Velvet Underground Loaded territory, which I certainly think the world was ready for at this point.

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91 Liars – “Houseclouds”

The more I think about it, the more similarities I notice between Liars’ self-titled album from ’07 and Led Zeppelin IV. Not only to they both embody the fourth full-length LP’s by the bands but they also each find the particular unit coming into its own in especial terms of straight-ahead rocking, having tight grooves and kinetic energy eventually manifest as their respective default jam mode and also calling card. “Houseclouds,” then, will illustrate the eclectic variety at work on this album (something also present on IV), with a certain psychedelic levity, though still energetic, following the explosive combustion of the opening track.

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90 Deerhunter – “Nothing Ever Happened”

Deerhunter zoomed out of the gate on ’08’s Microcastle with a slicker sound than on their debut Cryptograms, which every bit potentiated the reams of hooks and choruses they had in mind. Songs like this one then found more than enough energy even with the slicker production for igniting up a fire of penetrating indie rock.

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89 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “The Ballad of the Sin Eater”

“The Ballad of the Sin Eater” is actually a RAP, possibly being the only rap song on this list. It’s a travelogue, as well, about being sick of America, bouncing on a whim over to Europe to try to find a new life, only to settle on the dark, ominous chorus of “You didn’t think they could hate you now did you? / Oh but they hate you / They hate you ’cause you’re guilty”. See, we Americans are spoiled, snooty, stuck-up and disrespectful, so the stereotype goes, and in certain spots Leo slips into his own mudslinging shtick “I spent a night in Kigali / In a five-diamond hotel / Where maybe someday they’ll do the Watusi / On down in Hutu He**”. But still, it doesn’t come off as childish or petulant, because he’s genuinely pi**ed off: this is a song of frustration, a unique, full-bodied and fully explained, unique slab of American songwriting, and why it’s so chastised and hounded by critics I’ll never know. It absolutely bleeds originality.

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88 Cat Power – “He War”

Cat Power, when she’s at her best, isn’t necessarily known for “rocking,” I must admit, but rather more of a juicily vivid and hauntingly real approach to the singer/songwriter model, on the album Moon Pix prior as well as You Are Free on which this cut lands. We do here though get some affinity for a basic Fender electric guitar sound, like a “cooler” Dinosaur Jr. in woman form, fu**ing with our heads just ’cause we got too eager, or didn’t see the whole her, more likely.

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87 Animal Collective – “Derek”

“Derek” is the strange, gorgeous and explosive closeur on the band’s breakthrough juggernaut Strawberry Jam, marrying ethereal and pleasing vocals from Avey Tare with a shocking tempo change midway through, leaving oblivious electro-rock catharsis to hew the album’s memorable closing statements.

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86 Aloha – “Boys in the Bathtub”

“Boys in the Bathtub” bats cleanup (that’s fourth in baseball talk) and every bit hits for its average at this slot on the excellent Here Comes Everyone, coagulating into the most representative track of catchy indie rock on the album with a masterpiece of a chorus and some beautiful, throaty vocals from Cale Parks.

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85 Ween – “Even if You Don’t”

In a way, “Even if You Don’t” seems like the song that Ween’s whole career was leading up to — it combines the wacky, oddball sense of humor put to work as early as their debut album GodWeenSatan: The Oneness with a newfound, polished approach to production that allows the songwriting revelations to flourish. It’s a clear, conventionally mixed record overall in White Pepper that a lot of bands would likely shy away from just for how it bares the songs in what in turn tends to be their rawest forms. But even for all their juvenile idiocy, ultimately, Ween pull it off just fine.

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84 Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Black Tongue”

For their being decidedly the absolute collective apples of the eye of 2000s alt-rock, it’s funny to think this band has only put out four albums, total: well for their debut they were already a frenetic, maniacal buzzsaw, with a lead singer whose weird screams of unsettling orgasma in this song reduce the term “moxie” to an egregious understatement. Credit also Nine Inch Nails/TV on the Radio producer David Sitek as well as Nick Zinner’s tinny, caterwauling guitar that coats this song like a noxious lacquer.

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83 Queens of the Stone Age – “Song for the Deaf”

The lineup itself reads with the astonishing star muscle of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls: Josh Homme (Eagles of Death Metal) on vocals, Nick Oliveri on bass (Moistboyz) and Dave Grohl on drums (approximately half of bands that have ever existed). Anyway, credit these guys for staying thoroughly focused and poised to bludgeon our ear drums in, not letting egos get in the way. All of these songs seem decidedly centered on one particular theme with expert discipline, per tune, this track in my opinion just kind of riffing on that lead guitar run for a well-oiled vehicle of pure noise and glory.

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82 Mastodon – “The Wolf is Loose”

For being an album opener, Blood Mountain’s leadoff hitter I think seems remarkably comfortable in its own skin, showing off side-ripping, jagged riffs of metalcore, to ultimately come around to the almost obligatory meter breakdown that ends up going so smoothly by pure virtue of the busy pandemonium coating this entire cut.

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81 Black Mountain – “Stormy High”

It was funny to watch Pitchfork give ’08’s In the Future a luke-warm rating only to, along with pretty much the rest of the world, go into a spastic worshipping session of the album about two months later. It’s safe to say it was a grower but truth be told it’s somewhere in between: I definitely wouldn’t classify it as a classic album and the opener is the clear champion thereon, unfurling a handy new knack for unorthodox meter to go along with the straight-ahead but fun Led Zeppelin-style rocking.

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80 The Dodos – “Joe’s Waltz”

I’m hoping this list will open a couple people’s ears and sort of lacerate the prior conception, if there was one, that this decade in music was in any way monochromatic or stale. That is, this Dodos tune isn’t really anything like the previous song (he** it’s barely even anything like all the other Dodos tracks) letting an acoustic, folky guitar sound materialize essentially into a sort of Tasmanian Devil of rock, with some great percussion by Logan Kroeber. Meric Long’s lyrics cut at the heart of humanity with fervent vengeance and all in all, it’s hard every time I listen to this band to believe it’s only two people making all this noise and vaporizing all this dangerous feeling.

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79 The Intelligence – “Pony People”

I doubt the fourth album out of this Seattle outfit Fake Surfers is a concept album but it instead might have borne as a running diatribe against “phony people,” which might be implicitly woven into this particular title, per phantom double entendre. Well this song is basically nonsense anyway so it’s not like it matters but we as listeners almost get to RELISH in Lars Finberg’s strange, seemingly nonsensical energy toward a lo-fi blueprint that rocks with undeniable energy.

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78 Animal Collective – “Daily Routine”

I was living out in Colorado in ’09 when Merriweather Post Pavillion came out and surely, Animal Collective seemed to be chopping proverbial heads around the musical world and could do no wrong. They were basically like Michael Jackson. So it’s funny to think of the cavernous depths to which indie rock’s credibility has apparently plummeted in everybody’s minds since then, but I think in a way this band was also misunderstood and everybody, critics, label, producer and fans alike, sometimes did a mediocre job of showcasing what was actually their trademark and choice material. I make a personal clamor for this particular song for how it kind of seems charmingly unfinished, owns to an almost ludicrous set of meters and phrasings and is fervently, defiantly rhythmic, through and through.

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77 The Black Angels – “The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven”

To be honest I just noticed that this title might be a nod to the Pink Floyd album Piper at the Gates of Dawn: I doubt it is but it’s still trippy to recognize the Pink Floyd influence acting on this Austin, Texas band which similarly belted out patient, textural and fully developed rock.

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76 No Age – “Eraser”

Structurally, “Eraser” is its own kind of mind-fu**, with its one minute, 27 second intro to a song that’s all of 2:40 and doesn’t really have a chorus but rather moves along methodically from one verse to just a little segment that’s a little more poignant and urgent (which would mimic a chorus, as it were). I got dragged away from these guys’ set at the 2009 Lollapalooza and it really sticks in my craw because they were belting out some serious sound, even in that open air. Their basement shows, without question, must be monstrous.

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75 The Shins – “Kissing the Lipless”

Chutes Too Narrow is one of those albums that’s so popular and ubiquitous as to make it hard to actually remember your initial impression of it, like how I personally don’t recall the first time I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The stuff holds up undeniably though and this opener sets the tone most stalwartly with a sort of median Shins tempo and mood and those gorgeously celestial vocals from the one and only James Mercer. One thing I actually do remember was imagining their singer as an American Indian — such was the valor and what seemed like a sort of purity, almost, resonating in his delivery.

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74 System of a Down – “Deer Dance”

Listening back to this song it’s sort of easy to see why nobody even TRIES to categorize this band. It’s not even ABOUT the band. It’s about Serj Tankian taking over the reins as an animated, otherworldly frontman spewing expressionistic, disillusioned LA poetry, like Zach de la Rocha with an existential bent. The band, then, while well produced and perhaps unmatchably tight, is basically Alice in Chains on three shots of espresso, though if the need had been there to specialize I imagine they probably could have mustered that too.

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73 Radiohead – “Go to Sleep.”

At track five “Go to Sleep” sits squatly within Hail to the Thief’s glorious midsection and bubbles out of the speakers as something completely distinct of its peers, steering pristine acoustic guitar into lead frill caterwaul for a signature Radiohead gradual build. But where many bands would have been tempted to indulgently jam this song out and make it “epic,” Radiohead leave it at an entirely anorexic 3:21. As a result, the album’s integrity and flow thrive, as does the stature of this classic cut as perennially repeatable.

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72 Meat Puppets – “Sewn Together”

You probably weren’t expecting those Phoenix stoner weirdos the Meat Puppets to crash this list and basing the decision sheerly on 2007’s Rise to Your Knees, I would have indeed left them uninvited. Sewn Together came in ’09, just four years after bassist Cris Kirkwood was released from a year and a half prison sentence, and really just unpacks a wealth of feeling and legitimate, resigned beauty the object of some precocious maturation. The title track leads things off with some intriguing and heterogeneous half-metaphoric lyrics and a sharp and fresh set of chord progressions to lay the groundwork.

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71 Liars – “It Fit When I Was a Kid”

Anybody who reads my site should pretty much know I’m obsessed with this band — for anyone unfamiliar with them they’re worth checking out for a multitude of reasons, one of which would be singer Angus Andrew’s tangled, dizzying journey of residence from his native Australia, to Germany, to LA and to what I now believe is New York. Then too there’s the bewildering stylistic difference between each one of their albums, this cut stomping in on the tribal, decisively percussion-dominated Drum’s Not Dead.

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70 Deerhunter – “Spring Hall Convert”

Here’s another song with no chorus but rather just a sublime catapulting into permanent jazzy dissonance, borne out of maybe one tiny little verse with the curious lines “So I woke up in a radio freeze / Occupied by a couple of girls / I knew way back when / I had my face like the ocean”. The song itself then, beautifully enough, seems to gush out into a sort of oceanic haze of blissful guitar, over sporadic vocal “oh-oh”’s from lead singer Bradford Cox.

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69 The Black Keys – “The Lengths”

The plangent, nearly devastating amount of feeling is impossible to miss on this slow, ballad-like Rubber Factory centerpiece, with Dan Auerbach even almost sounding a little like an old Delta Blues crooner of the olden days. Most haunting probably is the third verse of “Tell me what you were thinking / To treat somebody so / The care he took / The lengths to which he’d go”, with a keen sort of honest humility emanating up amongst all the emotional wreckage, miraculously enough.

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68 TOOL – “Jambi”

Now, I believe “Jambi,” the second track on ’06’s 10,000 Days, is a homosexual love song to a title character, and listening to it over just now I was trying to reconcile in my mind just WHY it works (’cause it definitely does), this statement of unabashed amorousness over such a crushing, standard TOOL disposition of uncompromising rocking, so to speak. It probably has to do with Maynard James Keenan’s perspective just being so OUT THERE that none of us really understand it and as long as you don’t analyze it too much this song and album really pay off with some voluminous, full-bodied rock songs.

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67 Ween – “Chocolate Town”

I was talking with somebody about Ween one time and I think I named The Mollusk and White Pepper as my two favorite Ween albums. The dude I was talking to said he liked Quebec and if you could have zoomed in on my face with a camcorder I might have looked like that gas station clerk on that GEICO commercial who learns that that half man, half motorcycle dude is actually orally drinking gasoline. I mean this album is noxious, unstable stuff, by and large, “Chocolate Town” coming as an undeniable reprieve therein of guitar pop that settles down into something at least somewhat compatible with everyday life, not that the portals into the ulterior universes can’t be rewarding too.

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66 Dinosaur Jr. – “I Got Lost”

Ok bear with me but I have a kind of a bizarre method for introducing this song: I had this idea of shooting a movie called High in Terre Haute, Indiana, where I used to live and which has possibly the best drug scene in the country (this one dude I worked with had lived in LA and New York but stayed in Terre Haute to be “well connected,” as he put it), a sad scene where a girl who wants to get off pills is once again popping some Oxy Contin, after work, or on some cold night. This one girl would just break my heart, doing it — I thought about giving her my number and saying just call me next time you want to get high, but didn’t want her getting too many ideas. Anyway, sorry to shamelessly exploit this classic music and probably taint it with some lowbrow culture but it’s just got that undeniable vibe about it, beyond question.

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65 Heartless Bastards – “Had to Go”

It doesn’t get much better than this instrumentation from Cincinnati’s folk rock leaning Heartless Bastards — copious banjo and fiddle laying waste to the senses all the way through over warm acoustic guitar and most importantly, Erika Wennerstrom’s wolverine yowl of apocryphal, desperate imagery. This whole 2008 album The Mountain is very much recommended.

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64 Bob Dylan – “Workingman’s Blues #2”

I think we’re today living in pretty much a world of trying to grow a garden in the desert in terms of hyping artists who are way past their prime when they put out a new album — well Modern Times from ’06 was a rare comeback album actually worth all its praise, with pliable, genuine folk rock emanating from its mix and this tune full of this beautiful sort of resignation to the “ball and chain” the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever heard from anyone else.

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63 Witch – “Rip Van Winkle”

It takes a special kind of cultural dysfunction, indeed, to overlook a band with the listening appeal and star power of Witch, a stoner metal beast which housed Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis as drummer (whereas he was guitarist and singer in DJ). Well, they call it “stoner metal” and it’s hard to know what else to call it. Maybe that’s part of the problem. They should call it “Music you but on when you’re awake, as opposed to music somebody else puts on for you while you’re sleeping.”

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62 My Morning Jacket – “Off the Record”

2005’s Z album was certainly all the rage upon its release and rightly so: specifically, I remember everybody (or just Rolling Stone maybe) calling them the “next Radiohead.” How they got that is beyond me other than Jim James’ is kind of ethereal and falsetto-inclined, but divorced from grating jazz this is proud, ebullient, expansive and Apollonian American rock and roll through and through and honestly there isn’t a track on this album that wouldn’t have ingratiated itself to this #61 spot in its own way. It’s the definition of a cohesive, fully playable LP.

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61 Man or Astro-man? – “Preparation Clont”

I’m sure somewhere online there’s a fabled, fake bio of this band painting them as aliens that have descended to earth and rather than cause destruction, fall hopelessly smitten with California surf rock and use their powers for the good of rocking, or something along those lines. Anyway there are supposed to be better albums than this one but this A Spectrum of Infinite Scale is just the first CD of them I bought and always seems to rock through and through with instrumental surf-punk bursts like this one, complete with one of the most infectious hooks you’re bound to hear today.

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60 Wilco – “Wishful Thinking”

It’s hard to describe the greatness of the chorus of this song but to me, it sort of mimics something in nature, like a waterfall whose form and essence are defined by a sort of terminal descent. As Jeff Tweedy’s warm, humanistic lyrics traverse their way to the main refrain of “What would we be without wishful thinking?”, the song resembles almost like a bag collecting marbles, only to spill them in euphoric oblivion, as if being freed from the cumbersome obligation of holding them. The song appears on 2004’s A Ghost is Born.

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59 The Strokes – “The Modern Age”

“The Modern Age” embodies to me an example of Julian Casablancas’ songwriting knack really collecting into something excitingly psychedelic — the “In the sunshine havin’ fun / It’s in my blood” then perfectly lending itself to the scorchingly acid-soaked, classic rock feel at play (which also helps them shirt the constant Velvet Underground knockoff nagging they constantly get).

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58 Queens of the Stone Age – “The Sky is Fallin’”

“The Sky is Fallin’” is an excellent example of the knack this band had in its prime of creating a complete, multisensory atmosphere of complete apocalypse and eerily, the pauses between Josh Homme’s heavy metal axe jabs seem to speak as loudly as the music itself, such is the spareness and allegorical simplicity at work here on a track that also manages to become well-developed and robust, in its own way.

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57 Wolf Parade – “Grounds for Divorce”

Hyped up as basically “That Modest Mouse band” in 2005, with lead singer of said lineup on production knobs, Wolf Parade panned out to be, well, that Modest Mouse band, weaving together gorgeous hooks and bright chord changes to marry them to quirky, eccentric lyrics and deliveries, as on this fine dime here. Dan Boeckner shared vocal and songwriting duties but to me it’s anthems like this Spencer Krug creation that really grab at the heart of indie rock legend.

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56 Sleater-Kinney – “Steep Air”

“Steep Air” marks an interesting, combustive sort of segment on the excellently sequenced The Woods, following as it does too much faster-paced rockers but still summoning up every bit as much of a complete, boisterous energy and gravity about it. I’m personally partial for the fallen relationship metaphor that opens Corin Tucker’s vocals: “I’m tired of waiting on a ship / That don’t leave shore”.

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55 Women – “Black Rice”

Yeah, I know the name… it took me forever to get into these guys because I was like no way in he** am I listening to a band called Women… next thing after that I’ll be taking up chrocheting. Anyway I was lucky enough to by accident catch them opening for Abe Vigoda one time and it was fully one of the best rock sets I’ve ever seen in my life, pretty similar to Sonic Youth for noise rock recklessness, and every bit the tightness and melodic sheen, as this poppy but jangly and gritty indie anthem will illustrate.

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54 Black Mountain – “No Satisfaction”

On the stunning masterpiece self-titled debut from Vancouver indie metal getup Black Mountain, “No Satisfaction,” in all its humbling simplicity and organic garage-rock clarity, formulates part of the “classic rock” portion of the LP amidst the grunginess and post-rock compadres which surround it, so their insistent repetition that “We can’t get no satisfaction” plays as all the more appropriate and pastiche.

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53 Queens of the Stone Age – “No One Knows”

Queens of the Stone Age made quite the splash with this particular breakthrough single from ’02 on what some might not know was actually their third album, though their first one widely exposing them to radio and mainstream culture in Songs for the Deaf. Actor Elijah Wood, for example, just to illustrate, could be seen going on the record touting them in a TV interview, dubbing them as “the new direction of rock.” And see that’s like exactly the opposite of what they were to me: I mean they could have been a Pearl Jam cover band for all I cared it’s just that they did it with more muscle, with Dave Grohl on drums and especially, becomingly catastrophic lyrics from enigmatic frontman and newfound rock star Josh Homme, than anybody else was doing, and that’s how they got over.

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52 Radiohead – “Where I End and You Begin.”

“Where I End and You Begin” is the sprawling, preternatural and glorious centerpiece on Radiohead’s commanding return to rock form of Hail to the Thief (2003), memorable for the unique, fragile Radiohead texture, a bizarre reference in the lyrics to dinosaurs roaming the Earth and then some typifying sentiment of unthinkable ominousness to cap things off at the end: “I will eat you alive / I will eat you alive / There’ll be no more lies”.

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51 Ween – “Captain”

“Captain” took a long, long, long time to grow on me, after countless listens to this strange and sparkling beast that is Ween’s album Quebec and I guess just getting farther in life, on which the band is apparently commenting with the simple, hypnotic plea which comprises the only words of the song: “Captain / Turn around and take me home”. Now it doesn’t even remotely play as a nod to “Sloop John B”: it barely plays as COMPATIBLE with any other music, let alone derivative thereof, rocking its own trippy reptile scales with unsettling clarity.

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50 Animal Collective – “Bluish”

It’s so funny because here we were at basically the epochal height of indie rock’s popularity, hipster darlings Animal Collective issuing this ultra-buzzed new album of epic experimentation in Merriweather Post Pavilion, but lo and behold this song, which happens to be really good, reminds me of, all things, a Backstreet Boys song. I mean, it’s a straight-up love song, and a pop song at that, replete luckily though with the band’s expectably eclectic instrumentation the likes of an echoey drum effect mocking a beachfront wind to open the song, and what sounds like a glockenspiel chirping out that great riff in the chorus, just labeled “percussion” on Wikipedia anyway.

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49 No Age – “Sleeper Hold”

Practically nobody belted out such gorgeous caterwauls in the ’00s as No Age, who were often lumped in with the “punks” but whose guitar blasts, though basic in note interplay, embodied this billowing wall of sound courtesy of guitarist Randy Randall that played as infectious noise all its own. Their songs, like this energetic climax of 2008’s Nouns, have a way of manipulating quirks and eccentricities while also paring themselves down to something simple, direct and forceful.

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48 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Awake”

These guys don’t list a main songwriter in their credits: rather, the Wikipedia page just says “All songs written by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.” And you can kind of hear in the expansive, hodgepodge progression of this album how it would logically be the toils of multiple songwriters, with the textural and otherworldly “Awake” coming right between what are basically a punk song and a grunge song. The guitar on this cut is something to behold, though, taking on the majestic fragility almost of a string section, while it lays the melodic landscape.

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47 Interpol – “Roland”

For all their personality, strange lyrical forays and technical aspects, this is and always will be what Interpol is to me: this 100-yard-dash approach to punk-influenced indie rock with a keen sense of urgency and an undeniable genuineness. Sure, this song it about having an admiration for a Polish butcher who carries 50 knives around with him, and that for some reason adds to the appeal, sort of painting this dystopian picture of New York where you just have to let excitement overwhelm and dominate your mental landscape, no matter how nonsensical it might seem.

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46 The White Stripes – “Ball and Biscuit”

I think a lot of us, while having been casual to affable White Stripes fans, heard “Ball and Biscuit” and sort of did a jaw drop — it marks itself distinctly on one hand for actually unabashedly encompassing 12-bar blues, something no song on their prior album White Blood Cells had done, for its explicit sexuality but of most importance that ferocious, indefatigable set of guitar solos which seemed like the work of a hedonistic madman whose mania and desire were eclipsed only by his dizzyingly rubbery fingers.

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45 Witch – “Black Saint”

This East Coast band Witch has an undeniably cool sound, likening itself a bit to The Black Angels’ ominously patient metal but sometimes exploding for just a little more catharsis and distortion, so as to distance themselves from that hipster lo-fi zeitgeist. And indeed, this band almost seems so tense and original that they’re not really liked by ANYBODY, other than the few people who know who the he** they are.

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44 Man or Astro-man? – “Curious Constructs of Stem-Like Devices Which Will Now Prepare Themselves to Be Thought of as Fingers”

Our favorite Alabama alien surf rock gurus are back again, this time slowing things down and getting “infinitely” trippier and hazier for a hypnotic experience in instrumental rock minimalism. It’s hard for me to know how to describe this stuff other than just as perfect pizza delivering music (you can imagine what mind-altering activities often went along with that).

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43 The Shins – “Pink Bullets”

I don’t know where they get the “bullets” from for this title, or the “pink” for that matter, other than that it does definitely remind me of a sunset and is even positioned on the album so as to mock that very celestial phenomenon, toting simultaneously a heartbreakingly simple chord progression for gut-churning lyrics like “Since then it’s been a book you read in reverse / So you understand less as the pages turn / Or a movie so crass and awkwardly cast / Even I could be the star”.

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42 TOOL – “Schism”

No I am not rewatching the clay-mation video for this cut thank you very much but this was always a rocking tune to hear, one that da** near singlehandedly held up Clear Channel rock radio this decade with its eccentric, mind-bending meter and best of all its multi-pronged structural attack, fomenting into some furious LA rocking in the latter parts when it needs to most.

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41 Cat Power – “The Moon”

I actually didn’t even have this song or anything from The Greatest on this list when suddenly I just decided to listen to this particular track a couple days ago and just melted into this orchard-like guitar sound and Chan Marshall’s canary-like croon. The whole thing garners sympathy and amorousness pretty well, too, like when she sings “When they lay me down / Will you still be around? / When they put me six feet underground / Will the big bad beautiful you be around?”

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40 Modest Mouse – “Ocean Breathes Salty”

Modest Mouse biographer Alan Goldsher had some weird term for this type of chord progression on which the band seem to lean for their prominent songs like this — an acronymic term one letter of which was “D” for descending. Indeed, musically, this track is very much the gravy to “Float on”’s potatoes, besting it if nowhere else than in lyrics with the existential eruption of “You missed when time and life shook hands and said goodbye / When the Earth folded in on itself”.

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39 Wilco – “Ashes of American Flags”

I always think I’m going to get around to talking about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and say big, grandiose things like “the songs shift in and out of existential neurosis with ephemeral, synthesized sounds from Mars,” or whatever. Listening back to this tune, though, I remember why I really like it: it’s just full of great songs, which is why The Flaming Lips will never be Wilco, now matter how much high-budget artifice shmear they slop onto their sound or live show. For all its tall, cocky sonic structure, this sort of half-political half-slacker expedition mosies along like one of the heartiest John Prine tunes, the most valuable musical instrument in which is still that plain-jane ol’ acoustic guitar.

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38 Mike Doughy – “American Car”

Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty truth be told has been the arbiter of a complete plethora of inspired and meaningful solo material — this gem shows up on his third solo album Haughty Melodic which was produced by Dave Matthews, rocks as catchy radio pop all the way through like a more jangly version of Coldplay and bestows to this cut one of the finest choruses you’ll ever hear, complete with, of all things, a tuba part.

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37 Liars – “Plaster Casts of Everything”

There are certain songs which call for an analysis thereof pertaining to things intellectual, things like culture, zeitgeists and movements within the music industry. This is not one of them. This self-titled album opener is basically a Nirvana song, which is why it’s fun. Well, it takes the Nirvana strategy of pelting down an explosive riff and letting it rule the whole song, defying you to tell it not to, refreshingly checking all the relationship theatrics and melodrama of certain mainstream also-rans at the door, at that.

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36 The White Stripes – “I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s Heart”

2003’s Elephant from this band is sort of a CD I’d listen to all the time and… well, you could call it my favorite at the time, because I didn’t even CARE how scattershot it was, wielding twisted Delta-rock, angular punk, British goof-offs and gentle folk-rock like this, all on one album. I was kind of just knocked off my a**, to be honest, and all the cheesiness and of course childish drama coming to the fore on this tune seem justified by the glorious hooks and of course that near-perfect steel guitar solo in the middle.

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35 The Strokes – “Someday”

Uh… this is my drinking song. Eh… it’s fun. Ok I’m not sounding very sophisticated here, am I? I will offer this: when a band is criticized as being a lot like another band, like Oasis like the Beatles and The Stone Roses like, well, the Beatles, it follows that their best song will especially embody this similarity, in this case with “Someday” being in my opinion very Velvet Underground-y and most vividly encapsulating what this band was primarily good at, this brisk, fun and infectious jagged pop.

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34 The Black Angels – “Call to Arms”

For all the temptation there is to label this band’s debut album Passover as Monochromatic and stylistically uniform, the velvety, juicy and harmonic intro to this song should pretty much lay that claim to waste. In fact, it sounds almost exactly like a song off of The Joshua Tree, without perhaps the megalomaniacal lyrical conceit and proviso of every bit the melodic sense and musical feeling. The song then gallops along at an intermediate pace and, as is par for the course, is ignited by some black leather-cook Alex Maas vocals.

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33 System of a Down – “Toxicity”

Ok I’ll be honest: in high school I owned this CD but would pretty much only listen to the title track, eventually finding it to play front to back as a pretty consistent metal album, of course, but all the while blown away by this cut in its local color LA calamities, and the explosive transition from the verse to the chorus which even in itself seems to harbor about seven different styles of metal in one.

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32 Ween – “Happy Colored Marbles”

Say what you want about Carson Daly but he’ll always have a feather in his cap in my book for getting Ween on his late night “Carson Daly Show” in about ’04, a spectacle they graced with this particular cut from Quebec. Melodically, this is absolutely elite alternative rock, spinning the Beatles, Dire Straits and other into this stupefyingly simple and infectious chorus about worshipping or clinging to the childlike or puerile just as a momentary way of getting by.

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31 Mastodon – “Capillarian Crest”

Mastodon has a curious, intriguing way of sometimes sounding like a different band from track to track. “Capillarian Crest” gallops along in full swagger as a sort of metalcore update on Motorhead, roughly, and, God how many drum fills was that just in the intro by Brann Dailor? This guy’s got no future in Motown.

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30 Interpol – “Obstacle 1”

“Obstacle 1” is where the band’s classic album Turn on the Bright Lights really gets going — in energy, in identity and in musical prowess in general. Along the lines of the lyrics, though, I’m pretty sure I once witnessed one of the most catastrophic critical blunders in the history of mankind when this one writer failed to grasp the sarcasm of Paul Banks’ quip “Her stories are boring and stuff” (as in he’s making fun of her for always saying “and stuff” after every little thing she says). But I guess the song stands anyway.

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29 Radiohead – “There There.”

This is a song where honestly I think the video being popular and showcased sort of hurt its stature and people’s ability to appreciate the music alone. I think as a radio lead single this cut would have absolutely killed it — it’s got the subtlety and starkness of maybe an “Ava Adore” or a “Nothing as it Seems” and would have made the perfect lead seven-inch off of Hail to the Thief, which let’s face it in some ways is a singles album.

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28 Queens of the Stone Age – “Someone’s in the Wolf”

It’s trippy and woozy… no wait it’s bludgeoning my ear drums in… yup it’s doing both those things and more on the dramatically underrated fourth album by these guys Lullabies to Paralyze which saw the departure of permanent bassist Nick Oliveri (to whom “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane” is dedicated) and temporary drummer Dave Grohl, but of none of the physical velocity or songwriting energy.

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27 Sleater-Kinney – “Rollercoaster”

To me this mid-album cut from The Woods makes more than clear these girls’ love for jamming, the way songs like this can substantially and effortlessly morph from one phase to another, switch chord progression and technique but still sound like unstable tendrils of the same organism. Also, I think here we get a rare case of them sort of relinquishing “subject matter” and just writing a paean to trying to keep it together in a basic way: “I’m on a rollercoaster / I wanna get back to the way things were”.

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26 The White Stripes – “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?”

De Stijl is what I’d like to refer to as the charmingly puerile sophomore LP from The White Stripes, recommendable through and through and most prominently for cuts like this which ride a crappy little guitar riff all the way through that sounds like Jack White had just a little too much fun belting out. Auspiciously, too, this cut with its bare, straight-ahead blueprint would lend itself to a greater extent to their live show, if it’s just two musicians up there trying to make it happen.

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25 Panda Bear – “Bros”

Apparently, this album was a solo project by Noah Lennox, also known as actually the person Panda Bear, completed using ZERO musical instruments but rather just a Roland SP-303 sampler, as Wikipedia reports. More than assuredly, though, it finds ample ways to be charming despite its machinated cosmology, as in the swirling guitar arpeggios that open this song along with those percussion taps that sound almost like Christmas jingle bells. More “warmth” comes handily in tow later on, too, down to the trippy, ambient texture of the vocals that dominate this track.

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24 Modest Mouse – “Float on”

Lots can obviously be said about this song: for me, PERSONALLY, the first thing that jumped out at me in it was that rhythm guitar part, which seemed like the stuff nobody else was doing with its bouncy, galloping way of muting itself and pounding back in, incessantly and with sovereignty over the entire track. Credit the band too for temporarily lose their drummer Jeremiah Green for this session and replace him with one Benjamin Weikel, whose licks are always on time and hardly seems to have missed a beat.

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23 Enon – “The Power of Yawning”

Enon was an Ohio trio which then became a New York DUO, upon a U.S. state emigration and the emission of drummer Matt Schulz (all of this being borne out of frenetic ’90s pop-punk outfit Brainiac, in which John Schmersal played guitar), and I think they put together their best material after this subtraction, their finest moments generally comprising this Hocus Pocus LP from ’03 which here finds them rocking ruthlessly, straight-away like Schmersal’s old band Brainiac covering the Pretenders, or something faintly resembling that.

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22 Meat Puppets – “Sapphire”

Phenomenologically speaking, it’s certainly a head-scratching endeavor to behold the wondrous beauty of this ’09 album Sewn Together, an LP which FOLLOWS a comeback album Rise to Your Knees by two short years. From what I’ve heard Curt Kirkwood would make a habit of writing songs and letting them sit around for decades before including them on a new record, but for whatever reason we find a truly special little batch of songwriting on this track, with this sort of translucent sheen of psychedelia the band favored funneling itself in expedited fashion into catchy pop-hook bliss.

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21 Interpol – “NYC”

If you’re not inspired by this song than somebody should probably check your pulse: it’s pure New York mania, grafted down on this spare, deliberate song that paints dubious imagery lyrically and then rips into one of the most fantastically trippy guitar solos you’re ever likely to hear courtesy of Daniel Kessler. I’d be very surprised if this song hasn’t at some point made numerous different bands very jealous, both for its hometown and also for how it seems to display the personality and vivid scene-setting of one of the great New York sitcoms like Seinfeld or Mad about You (er… ok and Friends, just maybe).

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20 Pinback – “Syracuse”

All I can say about “Syracuse” is it’s just entirely otherworldly — in a sense it comes on a classic album, 2004’s Summer in Abaddon, on which this kind of ethereal indie pop is par for the course. Nowhere, however, is Pinback’s songwriting blueprint more focused, expedited and just downright viral than on this fragile, pliable palette of gorgeous melody, so much so that the song barely even needs any lyrics to thrive.

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19 The Black Angels – “Young Men Dead”

The first song on the first Black Angels album pretty much charges out of the gate setting the tone for what they’d do their entire career up to this point: it’s deliberate, bewilderingly ominous alternative melody with the universal playability of radio indie rock or post-grunge. For whatever reason, the guys choose the Vietnam War as a copious topic for lyrical matter, but the genuineness of Alex Maas’ vocals still resonates soundly. Also, like Rage against the Machine, they build songs around stalwart guitar riffs and do so with fervent authority.

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18 Witch – “Seer”

Now we move to another first-song-on-first-album, also from ’06, also from a terminally underrated band cranking out alternative metal with an indie bent like a more visceral, less cooperative permutation of Black Mountain, roughly. Anyway, to usurp singing privileges over J. Mascis in an upstart metal band is quite the transfer of proverbial “weight around,” so luckily singer Kyle Thomas belts these songs out with maniacal focus and dark abandon. Actually, it looks according to Wikipedia like Thomas was the last entrant into the band, amusingly enough.

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17 Kings of Leon – “Joe’s Head”

There comes a certain point where you just have to kind of lay down your arms and call this great rock and roll, off the band’s debut album Youth & Young Manhood — the band aren’t doing anything here BUT belting out rock and roll, although I think lots of whiny boy wonders could probably learn from Caleb Followill’s lyrical m.o., which in this case tenaciously courts the subject of murder surrounding an erstwhile innocent get-together: “Hip to the way of the world Joe said / I had to put a bullet in his head”. Check out Followill’s delivery on the last run-through of the chorus for one of the best vocal performances in the history of rock, full of full-fledged horror and glory.

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16 Queens of the Stone Age – “Do it again”

To me this almost would have made a better lead single off Songs for the Deaf than “No One Knows,” unless maybe it’s just too sensual and Dionysian, like something that should come around unexpected as an underdog. This it certainly does on this album and it’s the perfect kind of stomp, a simple and fun rock song to play or listen to with boy wonder Josh Homme crooning in that pristine vocal timbre to a special lady, of which surely he’d make a regular, welcome practice throughout this band’s days.

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15 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll”

Sometimes when a band comes out with a new sound and a new debut album that really rocks, as you might have noticed, they attract a considerable amount of haters. Well, those bitter misers are only hurting themselves because this album and song are completely essential to understanding the trajectory of rock and roll in the last 50 years. It’s simple and punk-leaning, but with a rich, multilayered sound and the absolute perfect vocal disposition from Peter Hayes, accustoming himself to his hopeless vituperation like a West Coast-borne, more disaffected Julian Casablancas, in a sense.

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14 Blur – “Out of Time”

Lots of things, in a sense, are unorthodox about this tune, like its casual demeanor, the bongos and all the space that seems to fill the mix considering it as being a stab at radio rock, but in a way it might be Blur’s best song because it relies so scantly on style and so emphatically and confidently showcases a classic chorus full of towering hooks. If Noel Gallagher didn’t get jealous of this song then he didn’t hear it.

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13 The Intelligence – “I Hear Depression”

“I Hear Depression” is definitely the flagship tune on Fake Surfers, an album that was pretty much bolted into my CD player when I first got it. It’s built around this entirely transcendent guitar riff, which it curtails and reintroduces according to its structural vision, also having this astounding production that seems to accentuate all these sounds and make them all seem epic, as individuals, in their own way.

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12 Modest Mouse – “Gravity Rides Everything”

2000’s The Moon & Antarctica will always have a special spot in my CD collection — actually, believe it or not, I bought this album all of four months before “Float on” and the accompanying Good News for People Who Love Bad News was unsheathed to the world, and the time since then has been flooded with so much rocking out to this band that it’s complete cognitive dissonance. This tune, though, undeniably carries a special, hard-won sense of harmony about it, meaning worldly harmony, which of course might have been inspired by the incident of the singer getting jaw broken in Chicago outside the recording studio.

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11 Liars – “The Garden Was Crowded and outside”

I’ve been showcasing Liars pretty extensively on this list but this is the only cut I grabbed from their debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, which seems to be many people’s favorite album of theirs. All in all, the LP is streamlined if energetic punk rock, with this song slowing the tempo and making everything clearer and scarier, in the vein of classic grunge and coagulating around the orgiastically cathartic mantra of “They threw me in / They threw me in / They threw me into / The cement mixer”, which is a metaphor for the American workforce encumbering the failed medical student.

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10 Dinosaur Jr. – “This is All I Came to Do”

To be honest Dinosaur Jr. had never really grabbed me until their 2007 comeback album Beyond, which upon multiple listens unveils some acutely tender melody and makes for great stoned music. “This is All I Came to Do” is the centerpiece, built around a couple of key, invigorating J. Mascis guitar riffs and this simple, infectious chorus of simply the title’s recitation.

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9 Ween – “Among His Tribe”

Like Ween or not, they make an impression on everybody who hears them. That much cannot be denied. So anyway their last album was 2007’s La Cucaracha, which definitely bums me out but if I know those guys I’d say they have a high standard for output and don’t just want to go in and record some rote, uninspired sh**, like some bands seem to be doing (ahem… Pearl Jam). And the pool of vital rock music around them has probably dwindled, to their definite disadvantage. Anyway “Among His Tribe” is a wonderful and inimitable sort of swatch of ambient folk gracing 2003’s Quebec, an album that definitely might drive you to pop pills recreationally, if you’re not careful.

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8 Mastodon – “Colony of Birchmen”

“Colony of Birchmen” is sort of the crowned lode stone of ’00s metal. It’s everything metal should be — bombastic, self-important and thrilling, with incessant, grinding drums and some steely-eyed doom from lead singer Eric Saner. One additional cool thing about it is how it sort of tiptoes in with some innocuous guitar riffing, before exploding into a full-band onslaught and doomsaying sneer.

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7 Wilco – “Heavy Metal Drummer”

There’s a hilarious bit on Wilco’s live album Kicking Television: Live in Chicago where they’re done doing this song and then Jeff Tweedy quips “Oh sure, it works now!”, apparently referring to this drum machine. As Wilco’s historical arc would have it, the member responsible for providing these synthetic “beats,” Jay Bennett, would get kicked out of the group following this record, and poignantly enough, I think song carries that sort of beautiful sense of what an end of something is, like a relationship — it’s like looking into the sunset in summer and experiencing blinding pain over the fact that at some point, it’s going to end. I get that feeling pretty much every time I listen to this song.

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6 Enon – “Spanish Boots”

Shimmying once again off their finest moment Hocus Pocus, “Spanish Boots” is a laconic masterpiece in alternative rock (or “indie rock,” to use what seems to be a four-letter word these days), sidling along at a midtempo pace and wielding this classic ability to make catharsis out of the ennui of ubiquity, depicting people engaging in a sort of perfunctory conversation “For the better of your health”, as the razor-sharp lyrics depict.

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5 Black Mountain – “Don’t Run Our Hearts around”

I haven’t met too many Black Mountain haters but at the same time I could see some people, if more people had heard this band, for that matter, taking exception to how much fun they have basically cheesing out on Zeppelin/grunge riffs for six minutes at a time. Obviously , this would be a bald, insipid assessment of a song, with its layered multifariousness and tempo changes featuring multiple vocalists, but I think like with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club they just did something that CAUGHT ON to such an extent that they’re almost automatically going to generate some antipathetic criticism. But this stuff is as organic as it gets, even in all its influenced, pastiche-housing retroism.

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4 Animal Collective – “For Reverend Green”

Animal Collective actually took a while to grow on me and to this day I know a pretty significant number of people who claim to have no use for them whatsoever. Most of their fans, though, I think, would name this as their finest moment, with an altogether horrifying performance from Avey Tare and an incessant whammy bar guitar part that’s not so much treated as it is castrated, reduced down to complete atonal oblivion at times as to only add to the song’s enticingly rough texture.

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3 Radiohead – “Optimistic”

Da** you know I’ve been known to go on rants against people who name Kid A as their favorite Radiohead album, or who just attempt to laud the album in any way, on account of what I personally perceive as its scattershot genre disposition, or stylistic schizophrenia, if you will. Then, what should be the album I’m inclined to say made the hugest impact on my music taste, per this recent Facebook album challenge, but this electro mutt from 2000 that seemed to both disappoint and astound the whole world over, in one fell swoop. The Kid A debate, then, is unfortunately only embittered by “Optimistic,” which is nothing more or less than an absolutely elite alternative rock song, coming standard and complete with some hilariously cruel lyrical gusto from Thom Yorke: “The big fish eat the little ones / The big fish eat the little ones / It’s not my problem / Give me some”.

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2 Nirvana – “You Know You’re Right”

Obviously, this is somewhat of a precarious pick for this ’00s list seeing as the man singing it died in 1994, but it was issued officially in 2002 for the band’s self-titled “album” which was actually their greatest hits package, hence my perhaps maligned reasoning. And it rocks. It really rocks. I’d even entertain the faint possibility that it might be Nirvana’s best song — I mean that bassline sticks to your ribs like biscuits and gravy and the band completely rock out around it with expedited, urgent mania, as was their typical calling card, with Kurt Cobain delivering one of his finest vocal performances of his career, directing a pointed frustration at his wife with whom he was undoubtedly within a troubled marriage. The song plays as classic grunge but also sounds like it could be contemporary with the Queens of the Stone Age/Exies-informed early ’00s, hence manifesting my inclination to rate it this highly.

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1 Modest Mouse – “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes”

Something clicked in me when I first heard The Moon & Antarctica all the way through. I think what I realized was that music is the best thing in the world.

One amazing thing about this album is the incredible range of moods portrayed on it: actually it’s got this song ABOUT Antarctica called “Cold Part,” on which some of the few lyrics are an endless repetition of the mantra “So long to this cold cold part of the world”. And Isaac Brock, though, doesn’t sound like he’s repeating a foolish, puerile nursery rhyme, which it could otherwise be construed as. He sounds genuinely heartbroken, actually, with the song sauntering along within this rigorously trippy soundscape, to highlight sporadic, noodley guitar frills emanating out of Eric Judy’s infectious bassline.

“Tiny Cities Made of Ashes,” curiously, which appears just two songs earlier, seems to basically be the exact opposite: not only is Brock not sounding sad or melancholy, but he seems to be almost maniacally taking pleasure in the depraved hopelessness of the world around him, over a great post-punk beat from Jeremiah Green: “We’re going down the road / To tiny cities made of ashes… I’m gonna get dressed up in plastic / Gonna shake hands with the masses”. It’s a song that, topically, is intrinsic to Modest Mouse’s basic functionality, seeing as it examines the phenomenon of touring, and it also happens to be their best song. This type of thing should not be taken lightly. It’s like he dug a ditch and buried himself in it and the thing he thought was going to rope-lift him out only embedded him further in the quagmire. And that, my friends, is the feeling.

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