Love and Theft

The decade with no name left behind plenty of memorable music.

It feels a little foolhardy to even attempt to sum up the decade just past in a few paragraphs. For us, if the '00s were 3,653 days long (remember those leap years), that means hundreds — probably thousands — of live shows, thousands of performers, just as many albums and a kajillion songs. Work or play, literally anywhere Noise has been in the past ten years, we were listening to music. Constantly.

In January 2000, Noise was about the only music writer at The Austin Chronicle even halfway interested in rap, so that became one of our earliest niches. (Seriously...we listened to quite a bit of it in the '90s.) Today, with the exception of our buddy Lonesome Onry and Mean, there's not a music writer at the Houston Press who's less interested in it. Go figure.

There's still a lot of things about the rhythms and production of contemporary hip-hop we are interested in, but the more the lyrics became a never-ending stream of bitches, bling and slinging blow, the more Noise tuned out. Instead, we listened to a lot of rock — new, old, classic, modern, indie, Brit, Southern — almost none of which ever made much of a dent in Houston's airwaves. Not our problem.

As the decade wore on, we also gravitated toward country of all types and vintages, blues, R&B, soul, folk, jazz, funk, reggae, classical, Latin, dance, electro, techno and even back to hip-hop every now and then. It was a long ten years. The records we kept coming back to tended to draw on a few, or even several, of those genres at once.

At home, especially after Noise got satellite radio (three whole years before we discovered the iPod), it wasn't unusual for us to go for weeks or even months at a stretch without stumbling over a new band or singer we really loved. Today, we generally prefer the channels that balance new and not-so-new music, like Alt Nation or Outlaw Country.

Even so, we've spent the past few days going back over the '00s — nobody ever did figure out what to call them, and now they're gone; we always liked the Naughts — and had no trouble making a list of artists who emerged in the past ten years (though some had more of a head start than others) who are now part of our permanent playlist.

There are many, many others (see the lists below), but as best we can figure, these are the nine artists that made the biggest impression on us. They're listed in alphabetical order because it's really the only way we could rank them.

Arcade Fire: Although they started the unfortunate trend of indie-rock bands seemingly drafting people at random to use anything they could get their hands on as percussion instruments — including, on their 2007 Austin City Limits appearance, each other — these Montreal musicians crafted melodies that consistently transcended the clamor. Over only two albums, Woodlands-born Win Butler and crew found the fantasy in everyday fears, tested the bonds binding families both real and adopted, and obliterated the boundaries between dreams and waking life.

Album: Funeral (Merge, 2004)
Song: "Rebellion (Lies)" (Funeral)

Drive-By Truckers: If their band didn't rock so ferociously, Drive-By Truckers front men Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley would still be front-rank Southern poets worthy of the Oxford American journal. First abetted by Jason Isbell and then Isbell's ex-wife Shonna Tucker (how Southern is that?), the Truckers charted a countrified course through an economically devastated, historically fraught modern-day Dixie that rang truer (and louder) with each successive riff.

Album: Southern Rock Opera (Lost Highway, 2002)
Song: "Carl Perkins' ­Cadillac" (The DirtySouth, 2004)

Interpol: Outlasting all their early-'00s NYC brethren save the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who moved to L.A.), bespoke-suited Interpol made a convincing case for never going outdoors during daylight hours. Submerging a subversive sense of humor in jagged guitars and icy-Goth lyrics, their songs were picture-perfect postcards of a 5 a.m. after-afterparty written by the guy who can't wait to get home.

Album: Turn on the Bright Lights (Matador, 2002)
Song: "Roland" (Bright Lights)

The Killers: Emerging as post-punk Oscar Wildes with hooks and beats to burn on left-field debut Hot Fuss, Las Vegas's least showy show band next battled classic-rock titans like Bruce Springsteen to at least a draw on follow-up Sam's Town. They lost the plot a little on most recent album Day & Age, but Brandon Flowers and company have already shown they have both the hubris and wherewithal to bounce back.

Album: Hot Fuss (Island, 2004)
Song: "When You Were Young" (Sam's Town, 2006)

M.I.A.: Even though she is, calling Maya Arulpragasam a "revolutionary" feels like a cop-out. Her polyglot, post-everything songs were mini-insurrections where change begins on the dance floor and spreads like bird flu. By the time the Clash-sampling "Paper Planes" hopped the Pineapple Express to the Top 40, its shotgun blasts had long since blown holes in modern music a mile wide.

Album: Kala (Interscope, 2007)
Song: "Galang" (Arular, 2005)

Rilo Kiley: The L.A. band's transition from the wide-eyed naifs of The Execution of All Things (see "Spectacular Views") to the showbiz-weary cynics of Under the Blacklight was relatively swift, but a little deceptive considering anchors Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett's mutual child-acting pasts. But whether indie-rock, alt-country or Fleetwood Mac 2.0, Rilo Kiley's songs never lost that small kernel of hope, so it was good to hear them loosen up and shake a leg on "Close Call" and "Smoke Detector."

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