Y2K: Return of the Aughts

Y2K

That’s right, it’s getting EPIC in here. Get out your Tomagotchi, put on your low rise Abercrombie jeans, and Crank Dat, Soulja Boy… Y2K is vogue again. But the aughts’ revival isn’t only on TikTok fashion pages. The 2000’s are back in a big way, with the alternative bands that ruled the decade releasing new music in 2022 that’s just as glorious as it was when you had to buy each song on iTunes for $0.99 (or pirated on LimeWire, for our frugal/dubious readers). Let’s see who’s been bringing me back the feeling that I got when mom said I could stay up to watch Legends of the Hidden Temple re-runs on Nick at Nite.

Metric

Founded in 1998, the Toronto rock band made itself known to the world in 2003 with the debut LP Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? The album is emblematic of the era, wielding a garage/punk aesthetic with pop hooks. Some of the album’s songs utilize synthetic sounds, but they were at their most compelling with the traditional punk milieu. However, “Dead Disco” is a good omen of things to come, successfully using electro-dance with rock to subvert the genre and make it catchier at the same time. Lead singer Emily Haines is the face of band, and sets the edgy tone with a voice that’s biting but attractive, and lyrics that are scathing but vulnerable.

Metric really asserted themselves as heroes of the zeroes (the 00’s) with the 2009 album Fantasies. It all came together as the band kept the high-octane attitude but polished their sound from underground garage to stadium/arena. Synthesizers are used here to better effect, with a more ambient background to the instruments adding a sense of gravitas and Haines’ voice is given a little bit of a metallic effect that’s really just cool, at the end of the day.

Metric capped off their dominance of the Y2K with the song “Black Sheep” in 2010, which was featured in Edgar Wright’s film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (also set in Toronto). While a relative commercial bust, the movie had a cult following and has been increasing in popularity with reappraisal over time and has kept Metric in the popular conscience das much as anything else in the ’10s. Below is the song as performed by Metric, as well as the scene from Scott Pilgrim performed by Brie Larson.

However, as of 2022, their new album “Formentera” recaptures the magic. Looking past their second single, “Doomscroller,” that has an over 10 minute run time that tests my patience a little too far, the album contains singles that have their trademark blend of raucousness and polish such as “False Dichotomy” and “What Feels Like Eternity.” The singles keep their tried-and-true blend of synthetic sound and hook-laden, punchy guitar riffs.

Spoon

Hailing from Austin, TX, Spoon have been alternative rock darlings for decades since their formation in 1993. While they had released a couple albums in the late 90’s with relative innocuousness, the band became an indie need-to-know with their fourth album Kill the Moonlight. The album is lead by the hit “The Way We Get By,” that has a toe-tapping, jam-session feel. It starts with tambourine jangles, hand claps and sharp piano progression, and builds into proper indie rock feel-good.

This was followed up by Gimme Fiction in 2005, primarily remembered for its slick, groovy single “I Turn My Camera On.” Though lead singer Britt Daniel gives us an anomalous falsetto, the group gives a sound that is becoming trademark for Spoon, namely back-up, ad-lib vocals, bouncy guitar riffs, and tight drumming with predominant snare and cymbal sounds.

However, come 2007 and Spoon have put together a full album of well-deserved notoriety with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. “The Underdog” is a bona fide Spoon classic: Daniel’s scratchy vocals, acoustic lead guitar, snare heavy drums and some more tambourine. However, the horn instruments really make it head and shoulders above. “Don’t U Evah” expounds on their knack for a groove, probably their song most likely to make you scrunch your face and move your hips unnaturally. (close second is “Rhthm & Soul”). “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” keeps the spirit of “The Underdog,” with the same horn section arrangements but otherwise simply an alternative rock song done properly.

Rounding off the decade, Spoon released Transference, for which I am appreciative for the very cool, very rock and roll single “Got Nuffin.” Spoon ended the decade on top, winning Metacritic’s “Top Overall Artist of the Decade.”

In the following 10 years they only released 2 albums, each with moderate popular success and critical success, as expected from Spoon’s consistent showcase of talent. However, 2022 they came back for the first album since 2017 and made (what I consider to be) their best yet, Lucifer on the Sofa. Spoon and Britt Daniels wanted to take this album back to the beginning, recording in their hometown of Austin and making “just a rock n’ roll album,” an album like they would have made in the 90’s as a self-proclaimed “bar band.” I resent the claim that it is just a rock n’ roll album; it’s a perfect execution of the genre that has more eclectic-ness than it is giving itself credit for. “My Babe” is a slow-build love anthem, “On The Radio” is a stomping piece of sleaze-rock, and “The Devil and Mr. Jones” is bluesy, dive-y smolderer.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Formed in 2000, Karen O’s band Yeah Yeah Yeahs were part of the New York garage rock movement that featured alongside The Strokes and Interpol. In fact, the band supported the Strokes and the White Stripes in their infancy, and even shared a loft with Metric. In 2003, they released their debut album, Fever to Tell. While “Maps” is the single that, understandably, gets the most attention, the album has diversity and does it all exceptionally. “Y Control” gets the same heart-on-its-sleeve treatment as “Maps” but rocks a little harder so you can headbang through the tears. There are a couple short songs that just shred in classic punk fashion (“Pin” and “Date with the Night”), and “Modern Romance” is a patient, melancholy treasure.

In 2006, the band comes back with a sound that’s a little more mainstream, a little less edgy; alternative rock more for the radio, less for the garage. Show Your Bones features “Gold Lion,” a thumping rock anthem that takes a certain cue from the White Stripes, while “Way Out” has a Modest Mouse-ish sense of occasion to it. “Cheated Hearts” is Sleater-Kinney-esque, as 90’s inspired, emotionally available “riot grrrl.” A great, underrated sophomore product.

In 2009, Yeah Yeah Yeahs released the album “It’s Blitz!” which saw them experiment with more synthetic sounds, keeping the kind of edgy punk energy that had defined them. This was nowhere more evident than with the hit single “Heads Will Roll,” a track that’s really about nothing more than dancing on drugs. It was made famous by the A-Trak remix featured in the ultimate party movie that all 90’s kids aspired to live in, “Project X.”

The other songs on the album are no slouches either, as “Zero” is an uplifting, underdog anthem and “Soft Shock” is a rather pretty, atmospheric track. It’s Blitz! was named second best album of 2009 by Spin Magazine and third best by NME, and “Zero” was listed as the best track of the year by each. Safe to say, Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn’t let up all decade.

Since 2009, the group had only released the one album “Mosquito,” which is their least popular addition to the discography. In 2014, Karen O announced that the band were on a hiatus, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs being almost completely absent save for the odd show in the following 8 years. However, 2022 has rolled around and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back, baby! With Cool it Down set to be released September 30, the band has released an upcoming single “Spitting Off The Edge of the World” featuring Perfume Genius (hailing from Seattle). It’s gotten me juiced up for the rest of the album; a single with swelling atmospheric arrangements and dramatic balladeering juxtaposed with tender falsettos… it’s just a massive song. It’s custom fit for a slow motion, action-movie climax.

Honorable Mentions

Franz Ferdinand released a new song along with their new greatest hits album, “Curious,” that takes us back to the mid-00’s peak of the band’s dance-rock.

Gorillaz released a funky, synth dance track along with Thundercat (“Cracker Island”) that feels reminicent of 2005’s “DARE.”

The Black Keys never have strayed too far from the blues rock of the 00’s (maybe with the exception of the Danger Mouse collaboration Turn Blue) but they have added a little groove to the tried and true with “For the Love of Money” on Dropout Boogie.

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