My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 270 – 261

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

270. The Shins – New Slang

I heard all the brouhaha about Garden State and the hype surrounding this band, but I didn’t actually see the film until I met my good friend Kim in college.  I believe it is still one of her favorite movies, and it is one that I enjoyed immensely, though I haven’t watched it since.  I managed to get my hands on a copy of Oh, Inverted World back in high school, and, honestly, I didn’t really get it.  Sure, the songs were pretty and soft, but I was initially bored.  And dumb.  It took repeated listens and a few years for me to appreciate it; what a brilliant little debut from a band that would, along with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, probably be the first in the new indie-Internet age to become too popular too quick.

269. Dizzee Rascal – Where Da G’s (featuring UGK)

London grime and the Dirty South combine forces to blow the world up on Rascal’s second album.  While the late great Pimp C is better represented elsewhere, this one’s all Dizzee.  That’s not to say UGK doesn’t deliver, they always did, but the prominent figure on this track is the leader of the underground London movement.  A track we played on KTXT (and subsequently had to edit the shit out of), the boys tell it like it is – are you gonna man up, or bitch up?  Tell the truth, for real.

268. Lil Mama – Lip Gloss

Like many songs I eventually fall in love with, at first I thought this track was the most annoying thing ever.  Say what you will about the cheerleader chant of the chorus, or the hilariously trivial high school subject matter, this girl’s got rhyming skills.  Her flow is smooth, her rhythm is infectious, and her confidence is unbelievably attractive.  This may be her only hit, but it’s one to remember, if only as one of the best female rap tracks of the decade.

267. Elefant – Misfit

I have nothing to say about this band.  I know nothing about them.  They had a couple of minor alt-rock radio hits (riding the Starsailor/Travis post-Britpop wave in the early ’00s), and then they were gone.  And “Misfit” was one of those hits.  And it was really good.  Listen.

266. The Postal Service – Nothing Better

Ben Gibbard’s abandoned side project fares better with my ears than the major-label work of his mainstay Death Cab For Cutie.  The songs are blissful electro-pop, a formula many would imitate with success.  But, ultimately, they would pale in comparison (the most immediate example is the recent sleeper success of Owl City).  “Nothing Better” is a great example of the borderline-genius songcraft found in the group’s only album, 2002’s Give Up – a conversation between a couple falling apart.  The sentiments are heart-crushing, personable, and beautiful.  I think I had this exact argument with an ex-girlfriend at one point – it probably sounded less pretty, but I’m sure it hurt just as bad.

265. The Descendents – ‘merican

What a great time for this to come out – my teenage angst and general hatred of all things Republican were at a boiling point.  American Idiot was on repeat, and I rushed to buy both volumes of Rock Against Bush.  I threw my vote for John Kerry in everyone’s face – I was 18 and pissed.  The idea that my sentiments were un-American angered me to no end, and, to a lesser, more mature, extent, it still does.  Protest is American, compliance with the bullshit Bush was pulling is not.  Listen to “‘merican” and you’ll understand how I felt then.  With the exception of Green Day, they probably said it better than anyone.

264. Less Than Jake – The Brightest Bulb Has Burned Out/Screws Fall Out

While the Billy Bragg-featured version is good, it unfortunately omits the sudden explosion of energy that is Part 2.  This original cut, because of that omission, trumps the former.  I had an off-an-on relationship with Less Than Jake, but this song is the one that stuck.  A song about picking yourself up after a fallout, and the passing of time and losing of friends, it’s a rocking tune that I could bang my head and relate to throughout high school and my college years.  Gotta love that pop-punk, kids.

263. Sev – Same Old Song

Remember Pepsi Blue?  Kind of?  Remember what it tasted like?  Yeah, me neither.  I’m guessing blueberry or something.  Whatever.  What I do remember about it was that it had an extreme-sports themed commercial, and this song was the soundtrack.  A song that my sister and I have memorized, and it has become a staple road-trip song.  The call-and-response chorus is undeniable, especially if you know all the words.  It’s as forgettable as the soda it was promoting, but Emily and I will listen to it til we die.

262. Eminem – Stan

I really don’t wanna delve into this, pretty much because everyone else already has.  Everyone loved this when it came out, even Elton.  Go look it up – basically all you need to know is that it’s one of the best songs from one of the decade’s best albums, rap or otherwise.  And the subject matter really had never been done before in hip-hop, or, really, in pop music.  And that’s why it’s on this list – after ten years, it’s still powerful, relevant, and frightening.  Listen again and see if your stomach doesn’t turn.  It’s so damn scary because it just might be true.

261. Grizzly Bear – He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)

These guys weren’t really on my radar until they took a polished Phil Spector-produced track from the Crystals and gave it the quiet-loud emotional punch it deserved.  The melody has always been catchy, the song has always worked – it was the topic that prevented this from becoming a hit in the 60’s.  Even today, it is shocking – a woman tolerating abuse from her man because she believes it proves he loves her?  The male tenor croons of Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen, however, give it an eerie new mood.  Afterward, the crescendo into a booming musical interlude filled with melodic moans feels like the first punch, the overpowering blows, and the aftermath.  It’s a little hard to take in.  Grizzly Bear took a powerful statement and added an extra layer to make it even more heart-wrenching – what was once a song that evoked pity now conjures up feelings of shock and terror.  Brilliant.

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