The 2000s, a decade often maligned in the annals of music history, stands in the shadow of its more illustrious predecessors. It didn’t have the seismic cultural shifts of the 60s, the rebellious punk energy of the 70s, or the raw grunge angst of the 90s.
The 00s seemed somewhat adrift on the ocean of musical creativity.
As a product of the Guns N’ Roses era, who had embraced grunge with arms wide open, I found myself at sea, searching for the next big thing and resenting the tempo of dance music and the din of auto-tune.
The start of the new century was inundated with headlines decrying the death of rock, and seemingly, the world succumbed to the funeral dirges.
Yet, the heart of rock never stopped beating, it was just pulsing quietly (or not so quietly!) in the songs of artists who were still crafting melodies, transmitting to us about love, life, and everything in between.
The 2000s were a time of personal transformation. The soundtrack of my life shifted from anxiously anticipating the next Ned’s Atomic Dustbin release or Weezer drop, to orchestrating the tunes that would play at my wedding (I recall Sheriff, Deborah Cox, Bryan Adams, and the Commodores).
I journeyed from bachelorhood to marriage, from an apartment to a house, and from a solo act to a band, with Kenji, my soul dog, completing our ensemble. Music, once the co-pilot of my life, had taken a spot in the backseat.
In a strange twist of fate, my career found me contributing to the “rock is dead” trope as I worked to help launch VH1’s satellite radio station, playing an endless cycle of Uncle Cracker, Five for Fighting, and John Legend. At times, it did indeed feel like rock was muerto.
Recently, a serendipitous encounter with an old MP3 player unveiled a forgotten playlist, a lifeline that had anchored me through countless rides on the Long Island railroad. This musical time capsule, untouched by the sands of time, reignited my appreciation for the alternative rock of the 2000s. It was a reminder that every era, no matter how seemingly insignificant, leaves its own unique imprint on the canvas of time.
Let’s celebrate the underappreciated gems, the echoes in the background, the forgotten alt-rock anthems of the 2000s. These songs, often overlooked, yet brimming with raw emotion and unrefined passion, are a testament to a decade often misunderstood. They embody the spirit of an era that was more than what it seemed on the surface, a decade that deserves its moment in the spotlight.
Sparta – “Cut Your Ribbon”
Formed by members of At the Drive-In, Sparta’s “Cut Your Ribbon” is a potent amalgamation of raw energy and impassioned vocals. With hints of Fugazi, the insistent guitars and pounding drums on Cut Your Ribbon encapsulated the restless spirit of 2000s alternative rock, delivering a punchy anthem that remains timeless in its appeal.
Diffuser – “I Wonder”
The cold open of “I Wonder” makes the song jump at you like a basement spider cricket, unexpected and impossible to ignore. Catchy hooks, dynamic rhythms, and introspective lyrics, (“And I wonder if you give him better blowjobs than the ones I got from you.”) create a memorable track harkening back to 90s rock in the “new” century.
Juliana Theory – “If I Told You This Was Killing Me, Would You Stop?”
The shuffle feature on my MP3 player loved this tune, and so did I.
A visceral exploration of emotional turmoil, the track captures the catchy pop-rock tunes of yesteryear, with hints of 90s Radiohead and Jimmy Eat World.
Jimmy Eat World – “Kill”
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that Jimmy Eat World has carved out an acre of my heart. “Kill” is a poignant reflection of love and longing, wrapped in JEW’s signature emo-alternative sound. The track’s raw, emotive lyrics, melded with its melancholic melody, create a heartrending musical narrative that resonates long after the song ends. Jimmy might have over-delivered magic in the 90s, but don’t discount their 21st-century catalog.
Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure”
I’m not sure what “MakeDamnSure” is about, but it sure reeks of a turbulent relationship. It’s a fiery emo anthem with an aggressive yet melodic sound, punctuated by fervent vocals and driving guitars, capturing the best of 2000s alternative music.
Alien Ant Farm – “Movies”
AAF was best known for their rockin’ cover of “Smooth Criminal,” but “Movies” is a playful, vibrant song that blends alternative rock with a pop sensibility. The song’s infectious energy and catchy melody, coupled with its nostalgia-inducing lyrics, create a memorable homage to the magic of cinema within the 2000s rock scene.
Stroke 9 – “Kick Some Ass”
A brief stop during my career had me working for an internet radio station when that was a relatively new concept. My tasks included producing a promo for an “Internet Freedom Rally” at the Capitol in June 2001. For whatever reason, the event featured a performance from Stroke 9, and “Kick Some Ass” was featured prominently. The song’s raw energy and fight made it a stand-out alternative rock track in the early 00s.
Dishwalla – “Home”
During my time at VH1, I had the good fortune to record several bands, including Dishwalla, who performed their song “Home.” From the 2002 album Opaline, the song is characterized by its emotional lyrics and moving melody. Passion is evident, and the band proved they were more than “Counting Blue Cars,” the mid-90s song that claimed the top spot on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart due to the song’s chorus, which intriguingly personifies God with a feminine pronoun, sparking a conversation on divine perception.
Jack’s Mannequin – “Holiday From Real”
This song was my ringtone; a ringtone I paid for! Remember those days?
I am an Andrew McMahon fanboy, and the lyrics here, hinting at disillusionment and a desire for authenticity, resonated in the 2000s. Fuck, they resonate today!
The Spill Canvas – “All Over You”
The Spill Canvas stands out in the alternative music scene with its compelling blend of introspective lyricism and diverse melodic range, expertly bridging genres from gentle acoustic to electric rock. Enhanced by Nick Thomas’s emotive vocals and the band’s intricate instrumentation, their unique indie spirit resonates deeply, capturing a myriad of human experiences in an authentic and evocative way. This song just hits different.
Straylight Run – “Existentialism on Prom Night”
Released in 2004, EOPN felt like a breath of fresh air, resonating with a unique mix of melancholy and youthful optimism. Its piano-driven melody and lyrical depth creates a soul-stirring experience, bridging the gap between teenage angst and philosophical introspection.
Metric – “Help I’m Alive”
Captivating, energetic, and clearly different. Metric’s Emily Haines’ powerful vocals and the band’s distinctive blend of alternative rock and new wave influences. With its infectious chorus and introspective lyrics, “Help I’m Alive” has become one of Metric’s most beloved and memorable songs.
Acceptance – “So Contagious”
Seattle roots, go figure! Just a clean and solid song. Too bad the band took a 10-year break, missing the rest of the decade and beyond.
Anberlin – “Feel Good Drag”
Senses Fail – “Buried a Lie”
Brand New – “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades”
If this post made you feel anything, anything at all, consider leaving a comment to let me know I’m not alone in my love for these 2000s alt rock anthems.
Forgotten 00s Alt Rock Songs | Honorable Mention
Bloc Party – “Helicopter” This British band combined punk, pop, and indie rock, with “Helicopter” as one of their most remembered songs.
Interpol – “Obstacle 1” Interpol brought post-punk back in style in the 2000s. “Obstacle 1” is a great example of their catchy yet gloomy sound.
The Vines – “Get Free” One of the songs that defined the garage rock revival of the early 2000s. The Vines’ “Get Free” was often played in rotation with The White Stripes and The Strokes.
Blue October – “Hate Me” Blue October had a few hits during the 2000s, but “Hate Me” was their biggest and also one of the most unique with its raw lyrics and emotion.
Editors – “Munich” Another British band that made waves in the 2000s with their post-punk revival sound. “Munich” was one of their most popular songs.
Modest Mouse – “Float On” Modest Mouse had been around since the 90s but didn’t find mainstream success until “Float On.”
Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye” Silversun Pickups have been consistently releasing great music since the 2000s, but “Lazy Eye” from their debut album has somewhat faded from memory, despite being a hit at the time.
The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights” A side project of Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights” was a big hit that blended indie rock with electronica.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps” The Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought a unique energy and style to the alternative rock scene in the 2000s. “Maps” is one of their best and most well-known songs.
Wolfmother – “Joker and the Thief” Wolfmother’s “Joker and the Thief” is a thunderous song that brought back the sound of classic hard rock in the mid-2000s.
More songs to be added soon!