Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Best of the 00's - Danny's Best Music of the Decade! ROCK.

The Best of the Decade series marches on. If you haven't already, check out my previous posts covering the decade's best in TV and comics. If you're all caught up, then by all means, continue reading, as I turn my attention to the world of music. If you you rocked and/or rolled in the 00's, then this is the post for you.


- Are you ready to rock? Because it's time to pump up the volume to eleven. Seriously though, it's been a tumultuous decade, and it's when times are toughest that rock n' roll is most needed. We needed the music to comfort us, sure, but we also needed the rebellious spirit of rock to remind us that, no matter how bad things get, we can't compromise our personal freedoms, can't stop questioning authority, can't stop challenging the system. It almost sounds crazy to say it now, but in the weeks following 9/11, dozens of pop and rock songs were actively banned from the radio, as stations employed self-imposed censorship. People burned Dixie Chicks CD's, for crying out loud, simply because the group dared to be anti-war. It was a crazy time, and we can't forget how close we came at times to giving ourselves over to our worst instincts as a country. That's not to say that music didn't play an important role in America's post September 11th healing process. I vividly remember some of those post-9/11 musical tributes - The Who and Paul McCartney and others reminding us that in some ways, it was the 60's all over again, and pop acts like The Black Eyed Peas asking a simple yet meaningful question - "where is the love?"
As the decade wore on though, fear subsided and comfort-food music gave way to a new wave of protest songs. Rock n' roll returned, and the Bush era gave bands like Green Day something new to sneer at, and bands like Arcade Fire something to lament.

It's funny, because people ask which bands that debuted in the 00's will go on to be next legends, the next Hall of Fame inductees. I think that, now more than ever, we're seeing that only time will tell. Who would have thought, in the 60's, that forty years later The Who, The Stones, Dylan, and McCartney would still be some of rock n' roll's biggest draws? Will a grizzled old Jack White or Dave Grohl or Billie Joe Armstrong enjoy similar status, decades from now? Like I said, only time will tell.

The true story of music in the 00's though may have been the radical shift in distribution. Digital music sales now make up a huge chunk of total transactions, thanks to iTunes and other such services. And it's amazing to think how quickly that happened. In the early 00's, my friends and I had our college computers plugged in to Napster 24/7, marvelling at all the free songs we could download in an instant. Only a few years later, peer-to-peer services had been all but killed by the record labels. The plus side of the digital music revolution is that it's easier than ever to discover new artists and rediscover old favorites. The downside is that you can't help but feel that something was lost in the transition. People are often surprised to hear that I still buy CD's. Personally, I enjoy the randomly shuffled nature of digital music, but sometimes I just want to be immersed in an album, and let the album tell it's story, one song at a time. Sure, it's cool to have thousands of songs on a sleek-looking iPod, but you lose that magic of an old record collection - the feel, the artwork, the tangibility. Look, I work in digital distribution, but I do wonder if the music industry lost something in the 00's as it went digital.

The other big loss in the 00's was, frankly, MTV. I've talked about this many times, but for me as a kid, MTV was where I learned about rock n' roll. In the 00's, MTV finally and definitively went from being about rock to being about crappy reality TV shows, and that, my friends, is truly sad. Many will say that music videos are now simply a YouTube search away, but it's not the same. There's something to be said for that intermediary, for having that single source to guide you towards what's new and what's cool. I'm not saying MTV was infallible in the 90's, but it sure seemed pretty awesome at the time. The interesting thing though, is that, sometimes, the universe has a way of filling a void. People were ready to declare rock n' roll dead early into the 00's, and it did sort of seem that way. But rock doesn't die, and who would have ever guessed that millions of kids today would be learning about The Beatles, Metallica, Pearl Jam, and AC/DC via a brilliantly-conceived rock n' roll videogame? Guitar Hero and Rock Band have been, in many ways, the savior of rock music in the 00's, and that's been fun to watch (and play). It's reassuring to know that rock n' roll fantasies still exist in the minds of rebellious youths worldwide.

So without further ado, here are my picks for the best rock bands of the 00's. I'm a fan of all these bands, but I tried to factor in both personal preference, overall rock influence, and general impact on the world of rock. Of all my Best-Of lists, this one is definitely the most subjective. With music, the divide between critical favorites and popular artists can sometimes be pretty wide, and personally, I get sick of reading music columns that go by the philosophy that the more obscure the band, the better. I'm a rock n' roll fan, and I like music that moves me and gives me a jolt, that makes me think, that makes me not think. Whether that music comes from a thirty-year-old rock institution or an up-and-coming indie band, I don't really care. But what you won't see on this list is music that's just there to try to up my street-cred. With that said, here's the list:


1. Green Day

- One of the breakout bands of the 90's became the biggest and best rock band on the planet in the 00's. It's funny, because I remember seeing Green Day circa 2000, when they played second fiddle to Blink 182. The decade started out with Green Day somewhat toppled from their pedestal and in danger of irrellevancy. But oh how quickly things can change. American Idiot was a landmark rock album. Politically-charged, operatic, and just plain kickass. The follow-up album, 21st Century Breakdown, was also awesome. In an age of a la carte digital downloads, Green Day put out two instant-classic albums that were the total package - all killer and no filler. In short, they made the most kickass, the most relevant, the best rock music of the decade.

2. The White Stripes

- The best new band to emerge from the 00's? Without question, The White Stripes. Jack and Meg White created rock music that was a fusion of old and new. Stripped-down, bare, primal, and yet with any number of unique, artistic flourishes. What's more, The White Stripes put out great album after great album, great song after great song. They had all the ingrediants of a legendary band - larger-than-life personalities, killer music, and staying power to boot.

3. The Killers

- Another one of the biggest rock acts to emerge from this decade, The Killers fused rock, dance, and pop music to create a killer combo of decade-defining music. Hearkening back to the grandiosity of bands like Queen while utilizing 80's-style dance beats, The Killers were some of the decade's biggest hitmakers.

4. Arcade Fire

- Dark, deep, haunting, and poignant, the music of Arcade Fire was in some ways the great rallying cry of the 00's. A call to action. A lament for the problems of the world. A utopian vision of a better place. Few if any other rock bands so vividly evoke ideas and provoke the imagination as do Arcade Fire, and their moody songs serve as a record of the 00's mix of optimism and despair.

5. The Foo Fighters

- The Foo Fighters are just rock-solid, and throughout the 00's they continued to refine their sound and churn out great rock song after great rock song. Another band that is ultra-consistent in their output, they benefit from having one of modern rock's most charismatic and passionate frontmen in Dave Grohl. Few other bands put out so much top-notch rock music this decade.

6. Andrew WK

- Andrew WK's music is a wild party in a box. The guy just rocks, and rocks hard. His music is straightforward and unpretentious - just song after song about having a good time, kicking ass, and partying hard. Basically, it's rock n' roll personified. Andrew WK's tunes have been some of my go-to motivational music for a while now. When you want to get pumped up, few others can rock the party and bring the noise like Andrew WK.

7. The Donnas

-Forgive me, but I have a soft spot for girls that rock. And The Donnas were flat-out one of the best rock acts of the 00's, Joan Jett meets The Ramones and at the same time something totally fresh and different. The Donnas' songs are simple, straight-forward, fist-pumping punk-rock jams, and sometimes simple is good in the world of rock n' roll. The fact is, no band, male or female, displayed more attitude, more fight, or more spirit this decade than The Donnas.

8. Daft Punk

- Okay, so I know it's fudging it a bit to call techno-pop group Daft Punk rock n' roll, but, I mean, have you *heard* the guitar solo in Digital Love? The fact is, Daft Punk is one of the best and most iconic groups that made music in the 00's - seemingly having time-travelled to our era from the distant future to bring us the soundtrack to a digital tomorrow. Daft Punk gets a dance party rockin', brings the electronic funk, and gets a crowd to put their hands up in the air. If cybernetic androids listened to dance music, this would be it.

9. The Darkness

- Do you believe in a thing called love? The Darkness did, because clearly, they loved rock n' roll unabashedly, and set out as part tribute to, part satire of all the wannabe glam and over-the-top cheesiness that makes rock music so fun. Basically, The Darkness were like some great 80's hair-metal act that had come straight out of a timewarp into the 00's, except with a large wink and a nod to let us know that they were, sort of, in on the joke. But the music is no laughing matter - because The Darkness did, in fact, rock.

10. The Strokes

- Not only did The Strokes kick off a tidal wave of early 00's bands with "The" in their name, they also helped to pioneer a defining style and sound of the decade - the stripped-down, post-grunge hipster rock that mixed college peppiness with sad-eyed, emo undertones. The Strokes were perhaps *the* rock band of the early part of the decade, and you can't deny their hits or the way in which they helped change the rock n' roll landscape.

11. Linkin Park

- Okay, I know that a lot of people think that Linkin Park sucks. I do not agree. In fact, some of the best and hardest-hitting rock tracks of the 00's came from Linkin Park, and the band has managedto evolve and stay relevant without slowing down or losing sight of what got them to the top. Whether they were producing inspired mash-ups with Jay-Z or creating a cool song that was the one cool thing to come out of Transformers 2, Linkin Park songs can almost always get me to pause the radio dial.

12. The Gorillaz

- The Gorillaz were notable for a couple of reasons. One was the unique manner in which they fused rock, hip-hop, pop-culture, and experimental sounds into music that really stood out from the pack. Another was, well, the fact that they were cartoon characters. Which, if you think about it, was kind of a sign of the times. In a world where the line between fiction and reality is increasingly blurry, The Gorillaz further confused the issue. At the same time, they produced some of the biggest rock hits of the decade.

12. AFI

- AFI is one of those bands that is an instant shock of adrenaline whenever their music begins to play. Their songs are arena rockers with a goth, punk-rock edge, and they just plain get you up and excited. Songs like "Girl's Not Grey," "The Leaving Song, Part II," and "Miss Murder" are some of my go-to tunes whenever I'm in need of a rock n' roll pick-me-up.

14. Tenacious D

- You can't deny the "D." I mean, they are only the greatest band the world has ever known, the undisputed lords and masters of all things rock (sorry, Dio). They are, afterall, responsible for "the best song in the world." Seriously, Tenacious D - Jack Black and Kyle Gas - are absolutely hilarious with their crazy rock n' roll sendups, but they also legitimately rock, with comedy tunes that are modern rock classics in their own rights. "&#%$ Her Gently," anyone?

13. My Chemical Romance

- I didn't even like My Chemical Romance for a while there, but they slowly grew on me as I realized that they were clearly the best of the crop of pop-punk-emo bands that merged like wildfire in the 00's. What distinguishes MCR from the pack is that their music is solid and listenable, and they know how to mix melodramatic bombast with straight-up rock. There's also a cerebral edge to them that I like - interviews with frontman (and up-and-coming writer) Gerard Way show him to be a smart, creative guy.

15. AC/DC

- Why is AC/DC on my list? Simple - it's because they kept on rocking, shredding, and kicking ass in the 00's, seemingly caught in a rock n' roll time warp, refusing to acknowledge the passage of time itself. AC/DC put out a great new album this decade, that was much like their previous albums, meaning that it was hard rock excellence. They toured and put on amazing shows, one of which I was privelaged to witness. And they never changed, never adapted ... sure, you can play AC/DC songs on Rock Band now, but, other than that, they remain a primal force of awesomeness in the world of rock.

17. Queens of the Stone Age

- One of the more interesting rock groups to emerge in the 00's, QOTSA's songs had a classic rock consistency mixed with experimental variances in pace and tone. The thing was, the Queens' songs kept you listening intently. As a college student at BU, I remember walking down Newbury Street, popping into uber-cool record store Newbury Comics, and hearing Queens of the Stone Age blaring on the in-store speaker system. At that moment, I felt like I was at the epicenter of cool.

18. MGMT

- MGMT blasted onto the modern rock scene this past year, and you could immediately tell that they were something special. Songs like "Kids" and "Electric Feel" were completely catchy, and yet had a rare depth and subtlety to them that kept you listening closely to the lyrics and rhytms. MGMT has an amazingly bright future, and I think that their music in the 00's is likley just the beginning.

19. Weezer

- I don't know if Weezer will ever top the impact and quality of their Blue Album from the 90's, but I still think that they were one of the top rock acts of the 00's. The fact is, when I think about some of my favorite rock songs of the last ten years, a number of Weezer's catchy anthems make the cut.

20. Sugarcult

- The late 90's and early 00's saw an onslaught of pop-punk bands that featured up-tempo grooves and ADD lyrics. The best of the bunch, I think, was Sugarcult, a band known for crowd-pleasing, sugar-rush songs that are emblematic of ritalin-infused Gen Y culture. Sugarcult songs like "Bouncing Off the Walls" and "Stuck In America" were a big part of the soundtrack of my college years, and they still get me pumped up and ready to rock today.


- THE OFFSPRING may have enjoyed their biggest wave of popularity in the 90's, but they continued to put out great punk rock shredders in the 00's. 2000's Conspiracy of One is a classic album, in my opinion.

- WOLFMOTHER gets huge props from me for being the first rock band to truly find fame via Guitar Hero. Pretty awesome, as is the Led Zeppelin-esque, bluesy band.

- THE KAISER CHIEFS are an awesome rock band out of England who mix new wave and punk rock to score with a kickass sound.

- THE STREETS had a huge breakthrough with their award-winning album, Original Pirate Material. They deseverved the acclaim, with some of the wittiest, funniest lyrics I've ever heard.

- PARAMORE was one of my favorite new bands to debut in the 00's. It's amazing how much passion and rock n' roll power emits from the diminuitive Hayley Williams.

- THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS made a smooth transition into the 00's, and established themselves as one of the premiere bands of the last twenty years - continuing to churn out great hits over and over again.

- SYSTEM OF A DOWN was one of those rock bands that made you sit up and take notice, because they were like nothing you'd ever heard before. Their head-banging tunes were some of this decade's most memorable rock songs.

- PEACHES is one badass chick. Her throbbing electro-rock songs combine grinding beats with vulgar, sometimes shocking, sometimes darkly funny lyrics to make for some ... unique songs, to say the least. Peaches sings that "boys wanna be her, girls wanna be her," and you know what? = I believe her.

- RISE AGAINST is a hardcore rock band that sings epic songs of struggle and tragedy. Songs like "Ready to Fall" seem almost tailor-made to play in some badass action movie trailer, because they flat-out get you pumped.

- THE DROPKICK MURPHYS get a special shout-out, because not only do they rock wicked hard, but they hail from Boston, and are proud of it. Songs like "Shipping Out to Boston" not only provided the soundtrack to The Departed, they evoke the sounds and sights of east-coast pride.


- Lady Ga-Ga
- Rihanna
- Avril Lavigne
- Eminem
- Jay-Z
- Outkast
- Alicia Keys
- M.I.A.
- The Roots
- Pink

And there you have it, a look at some of the new music that rocked my world in the 00's. Of course, these artists only scratch the surface of the music I enjoyed in the last decade. From old favorites to new bands on the scene, there was lots of rockin' in the 00's, that's for sure. It's been a wild ride, and here's to a whole new decade of rock.

Finally, stay tuned, as even more entries in my Best of the Decade series are on the way!

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