Our alphabetical guide to the best bands of the '00s. The rules: (1) Rock bands only - no solo acts, no electronica, no hip-hop. (2) One band per letter. (3) The band had to make a substantial contribution to the ’00s and couldn’t win on legacy. Sound off in the comments below and let us know what we got right/wrong!
  1. A: Arcade Fire
    Combining artistic integrity, insane amounts of members, and albums that muse on death, religion, and what it’s like to grow up in the suburbs, Arcade Fire rode the blog buzz to the top of the indie world.
  2. B: Boris
    Boris’ technical ability is rendered even more impressive by its refusal to be pigeonholed into any one genre; from album to album, Boris can play metal, drone, psychedelic, ambient, doom, shoegaze, and even pop music.
  3. C: Converge
    When it comes to the world of aggressive music there’s Converge and then there’s everyone else.
  4. D: Death Cab For Cutie
    With their emotive songs and chunky glasses, Ben Gibbard and company pretty much sparked the whole indie-emo movement of the early ’00s.
  5. E: Explosions In The Sky
    Explosions In The Sky is an instrumental band so triumphant, sad, and great, it seems a miracle that they can also fill big theaters every time they tour.
  6. F: Fucked Up
    Their music sounds like a fusion of every great punk album played on top of every great rock album, only denser.
  7. G: Grizzly Bear
    They’re primarily characterized by their meticulous attention to craft, with fluid time signatures, ethereal harmonies, and a tonal range that encompasses pastoral ambience and no-wave dissonance alike.
  8. H: The Hold Steady
    These guys write big anthems about small potatoes, elevating the daily misadventures of boys and girls in America to the stuff of epic sing-alongs.
  9. I: Interpol
    They boast a melancholic grandeur that is uniquely Interpol’s—an interplay that is at once brooding and majestic, soaring and soberly resigned.
  10. J: The Jealous Sound
    Our only other viable “J” candidate for this list was Jimmy Eat World, but why give it to the band that made that era’s emo phase safe for the radio when we can give it to a very similar but decidedly better unknown?
  11. K: The Killers
    We went with The Killers purely on the strength of singles like “Mr. Brightside,” “When You Were Young,” and “Somebody Told Me.”
  12. L: Liars
    Outside of maybe Radiohead, no band has made more stylistic leaps than Liars, or seen a greater artistic evolution.
  13. M: M83
    We deliberately left electronic artists off this list—that’s for another time—but decided that the French outfit M83 has its toes deep enough into “band” waters that it made sense here.
  14. N: The National
    The brilliant one-two punch of The National’s 2005 and 2007 albums Alligator and Boxer was enough to vault the Brooklyn-via-Ohio band to the top of the brooding indie heap.
  15. O: Of Montreal
    The ’00s were a golden age for the weirdo act, with albums like 2004’s Satanic Panic In The Attic, 2005’s The Sunlandic Twins, and 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? perfectly encapsulating the group’s freak-pop aesthetic.
  16. P: Phoenix
    By the time the spotlight finally found the band, it was able to display something brighter, tighter, and catchier than any of its contemporaries.
  17. Q: Queens Of The Stone Age
    At full or half strength, Queens Of The Stone Age brought a thrilling stoner stomp to mid-’00s radio.
  18. R: Radiohead
    Is there anyone that has a better claim to this letter? Perhaps more than any other band, Radiohead shaped and influenced the sound of rock music in the ’00s.
  19. S: Spoon
    “Consistency” is the word most often affixed to Spoon, and just as no one writes interesting novels about perfectly happy families, no one seems to get all that worked up over a band who delivers a perfect batch of rock songs every single time.
  20. T: TV On The Radio
    Taste, intelligence, and happy accident have long triumphed for the Brooklyn band, and that unusual alchemy has created one of the most idiosyncratic and transcendent groups of the last (or any) decade.
  21. U: The Unicorns
    Their songs bypass traditional verse/chorus/verse structure, but are just as catchy and accessible as any of their more conventional peers, a combination that led to the group’s meteoric (in the indie sphere, anyway) rise on a label heretofore known for noise music.
  22. V: Vampire Weekend
    The band’s catchy beats and infectious musicality won out, and the group’s self-titled 2008 album remains one of the best records released that decade.
  23. W: The White Stripes
    While The White Stripes officially disbanded in 2011, that thumping kick-drum that carried them to widespread acclaim in the previous decade continues to be the backbone of today’s rock ’n’ roll.
  24. X: Xiu Xiu
    Xiu Xiu made a series of records obsessed with extremes both lyrical and musical, skittish, gender-bending compositions that veered between pornographically intimate acoustic confessions, avant-garde experimental noise, and glitchy, synth-laden goth-pop.
  25. Y: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    Frontwoman Karen O really delivers on rollicking tracks like “Date With The Night” and “Y Control,” but also just owns weepers like “Maps.” That song is still absolutely crushing, man.
  26. Z: Zwan
    It probably seems like we’re reaching again, at the end of our alphabetical hall-of-fame, to find something, anything, worthwhile that starts with the letter Z. But there’s an actual case to be made for Billy Corgan’s other band, the one that came and went within the space of a couple years.