Rock in this decade had less of a definitive sound than it did in any other 10-year span. If pressed to come up with an answer, the new garage-rock variations provided by the likes of The Strokes and The White Stripes would be our choice.
The Strokes’ “Is This It” from 2001 likely stands as the most influential album of the decade. It’s tight, melodic, cool, and a strong rebuttal to the fourth-rate post-grunge dreck that did (and still does) permeate “alternative” radio stations. Noteworthy groups like Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and Interpol benefited from this sea change. The White Stripes’ “White Blood Cells” had a similar effect, though the group’s best album was the follow-up, 2003’s more bluesy and harder “Elephant.”
A great deal of respect must also be paid to the albums which explored electronic territory. At the beginning of the decade, it was “Kid A” from Radiohead and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” from The Flaming Lips. Later on, works from TV on the Radio, LCD Soundsystem and Animal Collective brought experimental sounds and melodies to a murkier mainstream.
For our money, it’s a tight battle at the top. The Strokes and The White Stripes certainly deserve to be in the mix. The Hold Steady took the mantle as a modern-day Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. My Morning Jacket modernized a classic rock sound — this group might be the best takeoff point for old rockers to hear what’s new. But perhaps Arcade Fire, the Canadian group with a soaring sound, best represented the boldness of the decade. These groups all released multiple great albums in the decade, but it would make sense to start with The Hold Steady’s “Separation Sunday,” My Morning Jacket’s “Z” and Arcade Fire’s “Funeral.”