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Best Tracks From The First Twenty of the Twenty First

Black Francis Left the Pixies To Form Frank Black and the Catholics


We should have sensed that the 21st century was going to be unpleasant, when during its first year the United States suffered a terrorist attack on September 11. Subsequent years seemed to pass a little less tragically, give or take a financial recession or mass shooting or two.

We were fewer than 340 days from completing the first fifth of the century, feeling as if the worst were behind us. Then of course came the coronavirus, a crisis unlike any of us had known before.

Those twenty years, nevertheless, have given us some joys, especially in terms of technology. The internet has developed greatly since the days of dial up service, and cell phones can now perform any function one would wish.

Another area where the 21st's first twenty has delighted us has been music, as a plethora of new artists have created memorable tunes. Here are the twenty(five) best songs from the first twenty years of the century.

1. 21 Reasons by Frank Black and the Catholics

Enigmatic lyrics and a rhythm that builds from passive acoustic to electric jam carry this infectious highlight from the 2002 album Black Letter Days.

2. Heavy Metal Drummer by Wilco

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was delayed until 2001because of the 9-11 attacks, and tracks like this one made it well worth the wait.

3. Love That Never Was by the Minor Leagues

Cincinnati is home to this indie outfit whose Ben Walpole in 2008 wrote this not only catchy tune, but a lyric sheet that praises obsession with nostalgia.

4. The Underdog by Spoon

“You have no regard for the things that you can't understand” Brit Daniel warned on this Ga Ga Ga Ga single back in 2007, words that seem even more prescient in thirteen years later.

5. View From Below by the Minus 5

The 2003 album Down With Wilco ironically features Jeff Tweedy, who joins Scott McCaughey on this clever take on voyeurism.

6. Hackensack by Fountains of Wayne

“Stacy's Mom” was the huge hit from 2003's Welcome Interstate Managers, but this ode to a classmate turned movie star is by far the album standout.

7. Every Day I Love You Less and Less by Kaiser Chiefs

Ricky Wilson and his four pals burst onto the scene in 2005, and this opener from the debut Employment exuded a rock energy that they have maintained for the past twenty years.

8. Last Nite by the Strokes

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Guitar rock from Americans had almost died with the last century, until this New York quintet released this hit, just one of the dozen gems from 2001's Is This It.

9. Dear Sara by Scott Miller and the Commonwealth

Alt-Country was the label placed on Miller in, a Johnson City, Tennesseean whose influences on his 2001 debut Thus Always To Tyrants reach far beyond the Appalachian Mountains.

10. Teardrop Windows by Benjamin Gibbard

His band Death Cab For Cutie could have made this list a dozen times, but instead it is this musical metaphor for a Seattle Skyscraper from his solo record Former Lives.

11. Empty Nesters by Toro Y Moi

The first single by the Chaz Bundick alias's What For record was undoubtedly the best tune from 2015.

12. Dark Sunglasses by Chrissy Hynde

Four decades after forming the Pretenders Hynde recorded her first solo album Stockholm in 2014, aided by members of Peter, Bjorn and John on this great single.

13. Kissing the Lipless by the Shins

Blending acoustic with electric on this opener from the 2003 album Chutes Too Narrow, James Mercer cryptically states, “Kissing the lipless who bleed all the sweetness away.”

14. A Little Uncanny by Conor Oberst

His stuff as Bright Eyes could be used if this list were longer, so we are limited to this anti-politician single from his second solo album Salutations in 2017.

15. I Should Have Stopped by John Wesley Harding

2011 saw Wesley Stace release The Sound of His Own Voice, thereby proving that his work was continuing to get better and better.

16. One Man Wrecking Machine by Guster

This New England outfit had been making eclectic pop rock for almost ten years when Ganging Up on the Sun broke through with this track, throughout which a man wishes for a chance to re-live his youth.

17. Trouble with Dreams by Eels

Mark Oliver Everett's ambitious 2005 double disk set called Blinking Lights made him well-known beyond just the few songs he had contributed to Shrek, most of them nearly as catchy as this xylophone-flavored reverie.

18. Safety Joe by John Prine

COVID-19 claimed the folk legend early in the spring but fifteen years before he made us chuckle with tracks like this one on Fair and Square.

19. Make Them Crazy by John Gorka

New Jersey's favorite folk singer had been around for twenty years making clever, often poignant ballads, like this one from 2003's Old Futures Gone.

20. The Yeah Yeah Song by the Flaming Lips

Wayne Coyne had scored a hit the decade before by using Vaseline, and this 2006 single was a direct attempt to rub President Bush the wrong way.

21. You Got Away with It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers) by Todd Snider

Gaining a great deal of notoriety through appearances on Bob & Tom's radio show, the folk funster here gives a comical scathing to the upper class's scheming to get into the most esteemed colleges.

22. Act Like Nothing's Wrong by Will Kimbrough

Nearly any song from 2006's Americanitis could have made this list, such as “I Lie” or “Power of Pride,” but this country-flavored dig at the aloofness of Christians is the best of all.

23. Last man on Earth by Loudon Wainwright

“I was born in the first half of the last century” says the folk songwriter to open this 2002 title track, which also has him admitting his lack of cell phone dependence and computer skills.

24. Who Are You by World Party

Karl Wallinger asks this question, sounding much like Highway 61 era Bob Dylan, on the delightful Dumbing Up album from 2006.

25. The Old College Try by LEO

Paying homage to Jeff Lynne, this gem and the rest of Alpacas Orgling from 2006 sound very much like vintage Electric Light Orchestra.

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