Top Five Most Hummable Indie-Rock Smash Hits of the '00s
The aughts saw indie rock really go mainstream, from movie soundtracks to television advertisement appropriations to Jay-Z and Solange Knowles coming out as Grizzly Bear fans. Below are the five indie-universe songs that got the most external play in the '00s, and likely spurred the most debates over what "selling out" meant in an age when a band of rag-tag ne'erdowells with a dedicated fanbase can easily place on (or even top!) the Top 40 charts by moving 50,000 to 90,000 physical or abstract units in its first week. (Weird times, folks; weird times. I mean, members of Sonic Youth guest-starred on Gossip Girl. Death Cab for Cutie were on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack. Sears used Stephen Malkmus's distractingly daft, kindercorny "Phantasies" to pimp a 13-hour sale. I know, right?) And did I mention that all of these songs are super-duper hummable?
Indie-underground denizens hardly have dibs on Britpop/world-bop/melting-pot impressario Damon Albarn -- Blur's "Song #2" has been rattling bleachers in stateside sports arena crowds for more than a decade, after all -- but we like to pretend he's all ours. (After all, the world at large isn't holding its breath for a follow up to 2003's Think Tank. Or is it?) Gorillaz, Albarn's on-and-off project with old pal/illustrator Jamie Hewlett and a rotating cast of collaborators, offered him a chance to fuck around with notions of culture and representational smoke'n'mirrors -- and in 2005 offered us "Feel Good, Inc.," a supremely meaningless, totally bumptious bit of nonsense that spawned a mesmerizing disturbing alternate-reality video, introduced a new generation to rap elders De La Soul, and helped Apple sell a lot of iPods.
2. Modest Mouse "Float On"
Psychosis. Nervous breakdowns. Bad luck. Longtime, long-suffering Modest Mouse fans will tell you that the group has had its ups and downs since forming in the 1990s. But after the release of "Float On" -- a lithe, infectious piece of strut-pop that worked hard to conceal the fact that it was actually strutting - the storied Modest Mouse curse started to fade. "Float On" was everywhere, and rightly so. Front man Issac Brock could suddenly afford a personal assistant. Legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr came aboard, temporarily. Now they're almost famous.
Sappy, puerile anti-folk song about hetero he-she palling around written in the early 00s lies dormant until late 00s hipster teen-pregnancy comedy (Juno) revives it. Adam Green and Kimya Dawson have probably made more bread off this song -- a version of which ran in an Atlantis Resorts TV ad -- than from all the solo records they've put out combined.
4. Peter Bjorn and John "Young Folks"
Don't even try to deny that whistling solo. That's some Andy Griffith Show shit, right there. You're whistling it now, aren't you? And your officemates are all "Whoa, man, what's that? I know I've heard that somewhere before. Oh, man!" And you're all reticent and trying to make yourself invisible, fronting like you weren't the one who was whistling. Poseur.
5. The Shins "New Slang"
Natalie Portman to Zach Braff, in Garden State: "The Shins will change your life." No, I didn't see the movie, either, and I never want to, and even given infinite time (or Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist -- hah! See what I did there?) "New Slang" will probably never change my life. But there's something seductively spooky about it, isn't there? The massed acoustic guitars. The anemic, tripled vocals. The throwback CSNY folkie vibe. It's the kind of song that feels unexplainably modern, but it also sounds like something that would make Dad start crying if he heard it while drinking at a bar.
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