26 ESSENTIAL SONGS FROM THE NYC ROCK RESURGENCE

In the early days of the new millennium, a movement that had been percolating started to take form and burst onto the scene in New York City: the NYC rock revival, or resurgence, or early-’00s rock boom. These bands were drawing on the mythic history of NYC while reacting to the post-9/11 city that actually surrounded them. http://bit.ly/1OG4A1F
  1. 1.
    The Strokes – “The Modern Age”
    There’s a solid argument to be made that the Strokes were the last great American rock band in the mold of the classic notion of rock stardom. They looked cool, they looked like they partied too much, they did the whole live-fast-and-play-raw-and-see-how-long-we-make-it thing. Almost everyone else involved in NYC’s rock resurgence was chasing the Strokes in some fashion. They are, inescapably, the standard of the whole idea of the NYC rock resurgence.
  2. 2.
    TV On The Radio – “Young Liars”
    In their way, TVOTR foreshadowed the movement of the the NYC scene to Brooklyn, something that was already underway but would become pretty much total within a few more years. Their sound drew on seemingly everything, and there’s still nobody out there who sounds quite like TVOTR, sometimes earning them comparisons as “the American Radiohead.”
  3. 3.
    The Walkmen – “The Rat”
    The young Walkmen captured so much of what it’s about to be young and pissed off in New York. But even if they were called a garage band, they mostly didn’t typify the sound most closely associated with the scene, and as they grew older and spread out, their music got more and more worldly, and more detached from the scene that birthed them. Before that, though, they offered up one of the absolute anthems of NYC in the ’00s, “The Rat.”
  4. 4.
    The Hold Steady – “Most People Are DJs”
    It’s sort of shocking to look back and realize that the Hold Steady released Almost Killed Me, Separation Sunday, Boys And Girls In America, and Stay Positive within a four-year span. The consistent strength of that catalog is just plain crazy, and it has to be one of the best four-album runs in recent memory. Craig Finn’s wordiness was a rush of American experience, not just New York experience.
  5. 5.
    Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
    Not only were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs one of the major luminaries of the NYC scene, “Maps” is one of the most popular, recognizable, and immortal songs from the whole movement. It’s the one of the ones that made it into Guitar Hero, after all. All for good reason: The song is gorgeous and totally moving, seemingly no matter how many times you hear it.
  6. 6.
    Interpol – “NYC”
    Interpol are one of the most iconic artists of the NYC rock resurgence, beloved ever since their 2002 debut, Turn On The Bright Lights. The brooding post-punk aesthetics, the dark suits — Interpol were the band that perhaps best encapsulated this element of the scene’s personality.
  7. 7.
    The Rapture – “House of Jealous Lovers”
    Not only is the Rapture the band people immediately refer back to when discussing the rise of the dance-punk movement early last decade, “House Of Jealous Lovers” is the single song to which you could almost attribute the whole thing.
  8. 8.
    Liars – “Mr Your On Fire Mr”
    Liars began as another one of the eminent dance-punk bands of the early ’00s. If you were just introduced to the band now, and you were only played an early track like “Mr Your On Fire Mr,” chances are it’d sound very much of its era. A lot of bands that were a part of this scene flared out entirely. At one point, Liars probably would’ve seemed like a band that could go that route, but they’ve emerged as being surprisingly hard to pin down and built to last.
  9. 9.
    Stellastarr – “My Coco”
    At one point, Stellastarr were one of the bands that seemingly could have risen to the fore of the early-’00s scene in NYC, perhaps becoming one of its breakout names. They’re still one of the more recognizable groups from the era short of the really big guys, but they never did quite blow up — and maybe they should have. Their best stuff had a sweep to it that was more ambitious and interesting than some of the other bands around them.
  10. 10.
    Les Savy Fav- “The Sweat Descends”
    The origins of Les Savy Fav date quite a while back before the beginning of the NYC rock resurgence, back to 1995 when the group’s founding members were all at the Rhode Island School Of Design together. That background served them specifically well when it came to differentiating themselves from the rest of the NYC scene of the time. Les Savy Fav came out of noise and hardcore, though, and even when they went more toward that NYC indie sound, they brought their different strains with them.
  11. 11.
    Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – “The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth”
    Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are a NYC band, yes, but more notably, they became symbolic of a turning of the tide ten years ago. In 2005, they rose to prominence despite having no record contract, riding solely on internet buzz and a glowing review of their self-titled debut from Pitchfork, thus becoming the poster child for the blog rock era.
  12. 12.
    !!! – “Me And Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story)”
    By the time !!! released their sophomore album Louden Up Now in 2004, the city and country alike were well past that moment of solidarity immediately post-9/11, and well into the disenchantment and frustration of the Iraq era. With a song like “Me And Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story),” you can see the beginning of NYC disenchantment, too.
  13. 13.
    Radio 4 – “Our Town”
    There’s perhaps no other band that so perfectly sums up the contradicting dichotomy at the heart of the rock resurgence. Radio 4 was clearly enamored with the city around them, naming their sophomore album Gotham!, and writing about issues with the NYPD and post-9/11 NYC. But when Radio 4 released their debut, The New Song & Dance, in 2000, they were regularly cited as a mixture of the Clash and Gang Of Four, and usually as if that was a detriment.
  14. 14.
    The Cloud Room – “Hey Now Now”
    You probably remember “Hey Now Now.” I mean, it was used for a Pepsi campaign in 2007. It is, for better or worse, the song that defined the Cloud Room. It’s one of the best songs of the early-’00s NYC scene, one of the most indelible, one of the ones that still sounds pretty damn great all these years later. It also wound up confining the Cloud Room to one-hit-wonder status.
  15. 15.
    The Bravery – “An Honest Mistake”
    When the Bravery issued their self-titled debut in 2005, it was already the tail-end of the peak of NYC’s rock resurgence in its original form. Soon, the wane of that scene would give way entirely to the next guard of NYC-based artists. So not only were the Bravery late to the party, but at this point the formula of hip historical touchstones had been so thoroughly fleshed out and depleted that the band came off as bandwagon jumpers, or fakers.
  16. 16.
    Longwave – “Tidal Wave”
    Longwave were well woven into the NYC scene of the early ’00s. They frequently played at Luna Lounge and released their debut Endsongs via LunaSea Records, which was owned by Rob Sacher, who also owned Luna Lounge. After garnering more buzz, Longwave signed to RCA, opened for the Strokes, and put out The Strangest Things in 2003, but sort of faded out over time, between constant lineup changes and a label hiccup.
  17. 17.
    The Fever – “Ladyfingers”
    The Fever were another one of those dance-rock bands that proliferated wildly early last decade. They put out a debut, Red Bedroom, in 2004, and it’s one of those things that’d be easy to dismiss as very rooted in its time. But “Ladyfingers” still sounds pretty good these days. It’s predictably spiky, but the way the keyboard line and that riff intertwine is a cool touch, and a slightly different vibe than a lot of the more soundalike bands from that era/on this list.
  18. 18.
    Calla – “Strangler”
    The two constant members of Calla — Aurelio Valle and Wayne B. Magruder — actually met and played in Texas before relocating to New York City. The thing that makes them outliers in the scene was the kind of music they played. Their self-titled debut is all bleak experimental music built on loops and sampling. They favored a bleary, meditative brand of indie rock that sounded charred around the edges rather than perpetually catching fire, like some of the scene’s more representative artists.
  19. 19.
    The Star Spangles – “I’m On A High”
    Where a lot of the artists associated with the early ’00s NYC rock scene talked up the Lower East Side of legend, and affiliated themselves with various punk lineages, the Star Spangles actually, kind of, sounded like a punk band. One thing that hindered the rise of the Star Spangles was supposed similarities to the Ramones, even though the band’s sound (and, especially, frontman Ian Wilson’s vocals) really owe more to the Replacements.
  20. 20.
    Elefant – “Misfit”
    You know the formula by now: a little bit of ’80s indie touchstones, some sleek clothes, and a bunch of angularly brooding if occasionally catchy songs that blend in with a bunch of the other lesser-remembered bands on this list. Elefant weren’t one of the more offensive candidates of the scene, but they were among the least memorable, even if their 2003 debut, Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid, was pretty well-received at the time.
  21. 21.
    French Kicks – “Trial Of A Century”
    You’d sort of assume French Kicks would sound a bit more well, aggressive, considering a lot of the surrounding influence in NYC at the time, but especially considering that three of its founding members grew up in DC and were supposedly enamored with that city’s hardcore scene. French Kicks, rather, were mostly exceedingly pleasant and smooth sounding. When the hooks were good enough, they could produce some catchy, welcoming songs.
  22. 22.
    The Natural History – “The Right Hand”
    If you don’t remember the Natural History, perhaps the best way you’d know them is from one of their non-NYC pals — Spoon would take the Natural History’s “Don’t You Ever” and turn it into “Don’t You Evah,” a standout on their 2007 release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and a mainstay in their setlists. It’s a great song, and so is the Natural History’s original
  23. 23.
    Ambulance LTD – “Stay Where You Are”
    Ambulance LTD had a rocky existence, in some ways brief and, in others, quite prolonged. The band had a ton of major lineup changes, the only constant being Marcus Congleton, who wasn’t an original founding member. They put out a debut LP, simply titled LP, with TVT Records in 2004, a dreamier and softer affair than most of what’s normally associated with NYC ten years ago.
  24. 24.
    The Mooney Suzuki – “In A Young Man’s Mind”
    When it comes to revivalism, I’ll take a ton of bands quoting Joy Division and the Smiths before bands retreading the more boring or churlish elements of classic rock. The Mooney Suzuki were a bit of an anomaly in the early-’00s NYC scene because they leaned toward the latter. While they might namecheck influences such as the Stooges or MC5, they come off sounding like some sort of spoof on classic-rock tropes.
  25. 25.
    Robbers On High Street – “Love Underground”
    Like the Bravery, Robbers On High Street were a bit late to the NYC rock-boom party. When their debut was released in 2005, they were often dismissed as also-rans who weren’t so much derivative of decades past as they were derivative of the preceding few years.
  26. 26.
    The Moldy Peaches – “NYC’s Like A Graveyard”
    The Moldy Peaches had little to do with the rock-boom portion of the early-’00s NYC scene. But they were tightly associated with the Strokes, and their self-titled album was released on September 11, 2001, eerily containing the track “NYC’s Like A Graveyard.” Of course that was coincidence, and the song is about, you know, death of culture and yuppies and stuff, or something — evidence that New Yorkers have been trying to proclaim NYC dead for a long time now.