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Best Of The Aughts (#110 of 12)

Updating Slant Magazine’s List of the 100 Greatest Horror Movies of All Time

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Updating Slant Magazine’s List of the 100 Greatest Horror Movies of All Time

Warner Bros.

Updating Slant Magazine’s List of the 100 Greatest Horror Movies of All Time

On October 28, 2013, Slant Magazine published its list of the 100 Greatest Horror Films of All Time, one of the most viewed articles in our publication’s history. Five years later, we’ve revised our list, which can be viewed here. The new list is based on polling nine contributors to the site, some of whom contributed to the original list. For the sake of posterity, we are presenting below the 100 titles that made our original list.

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #10 - #1

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #10 - #1
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #10 - #1

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

10. Andrew Bird, “Scythian Empire” (Armchair Apocrypha, 2007)
Judging by his interviews, the suspiciously pleasurable Andrew Bird burnt out on pretty much all forms of modern music during his conservatory days and now just listens to the more obscure corners of the world music catalogue. Absolutely none of which you can hear in his music, which time and time again sounds effortlessly warm and well-crafted in a resolutely non-confrontational manner, which seems like a warning that maybe this is secretly Muzak. “Scythian Empire” is one of the best, an elegy for the decay and obsolescence of a once-proud reign now just remembered for a curious name and a few disconnected, passed-down images. Like The Flaming Lips, Bird’s a musical existentialist: Lyrics of doubt and worry against a reassuring musical backdrop.

Rest of the Best of the Aughts: Albums & Singles (#101 - 250)

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Rest of the Best of the Aughts: Albums & Singles (#101 - 250)
Rest of the Best of the Aughts: Albums & Singles (#101 - 250)

Due to semi-popular demand, we’ve decided to post #101—250 of both our Best of the Aughts: Albums and Best of the Aughts: Singles lists. Part of the reason we originally decided to publish lists of 100 is because, aside from the obvious quantity of writing required, the lower down on the list you got, the less consensus there was on a particular title; in fact, outside the Top 150 singles, there were only a handful of songs that were voted for by more than one contributor. That, of course, made for a bunch of unique and/or unheralded selections mixed in with more popularly cited titles

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #20 - #11

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #20 - #11
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #20 - #11

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

20. Justice, “D.A.N.C.E.” (, 2007)
I know people who really despise this song; that seems unnecessarily curmudgeonly to me, but abstractly I see their point. This is a song that nakedly apes Daft Punk unlike anything else on Justice’s sole official album to date, whose hooks initially seem stupidly obvious and pandering, a sell-out version of real dance music, a way of tugging at fond memories of the Jackson 5 without earning the comparison, a cross-over for people who’ll never actually cross over to investigate non-hit dance songs. All of which is true. I won’t pull some kind of nonsense about how what’s obvious is actually pure emotion breaking down your cynical barriers and making us a less hardened generation, or that it makes you want to dance despite yourself; I’m perfectly capable of standing still, thank you. But this song is infectious and overwhelming in a way that makes it clear it’s accomplishing all of its obvious goals without making you hate yourself. And why is it ranked so far above Daft Punk? Because it showed up way after my initial love affair with music; after, say, freshman year of college, it takes a lot more for something to worm itself into my life and take up permanent residence. Daft Punk certainly paved the way, but Justice got there after I despaired of ever hearing another Daft Punk album I liked as much as Discovery, let alone having someone take up their mantle (in unfettered obviousness, if not sonics). The other thing I like about this is that it’s a perfect single—one that stands out as such—from an album it really sounds nothing like but which I like almost as much in its entirety. More bands should pitch their big cross-over with this much care.

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #30 - #21

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #30 - #21
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #30 - #21

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

30. The Divine Comedy, “Count Grassi’s Passage Over Piedmont” (Victory For The Comic Muse, 2006)
Neil Hannon is a parallel-world survivor of Britpop. In 1991, while the UK was in thrall to Madchester and “baggy,” The Divine Comedy released their first album, Fanfare for the Comic Muse —subsequently and quickly deleted from the catalogue, but by all accounts extremely R.E.M.-influenced, which made Hannon about seven years late to the party. In 1993, as Suede and Blur mounted their first serious attacks on the brave new Kinks/Beatles-loving Britpop frontier, Hannon thought it appropriate to release the first DC album, Liberation, on which his greatest influence appeared to be Romantic poetry (the final song is three of Wordsworth’s “Lucy” poems strung together) and Michael Nyman. Hannon’s pretty much stayed the course since then, remaining stubbornly unfashionable: He’s set Fitzgerald to song (“Bernice Bobs Her Hair”), written extravagantly Broadway-esque odes to national transportation (“National Express”) and given the occasional winking reminder that he’s aware of the present day (the hilariously acerbic parody “Europop,” a love song using the BBC show “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World” as a metaphor). But his heart is in the Romantic era, which happens to be one of my least favorite eras in literature and which he brings to life, making the ideals new, fresh and moving again.

“Count Grassi’s Passage Over Piemont” is the story of a fictional count (as far as I know) setting hot-air balloon passage over the continent, passing over Italy. But what’s really on his mind is death: “If I’m to die, then let it be in summertime, in a manner of my own choosing, to fall from a great height, on a warm July afternoon.” It’s all unbearably sad and moving and reminds me of the kind of similar 19th-century crap my dad used to quote with great fervor. That’s enough about that.

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #40 - #31

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #40 - #31
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #40 - #31

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

40. Gucci Mane, “Freaky Girl” (Hard to Kill, 2006)
Last year, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, Gucci Mane suddenly become a rap critic favorite. Perhaps he really is a new man and his new mixtapes testify to bold new frontiers in punchlines, but I doubt it. Mane is notable as one of rap’s more documentedly thuggish characters—murder charges were at one point dropped against him for insufficient evidence—and, for me, solely for this song. After I left Austin, I rarely drove except when visiting home home, so I only got to catch up with radio hip-hop twice every year; since that’s commercial radio’s change-over cycle anyway, that didn’t prove to be a big deal. I first heard “Freaky Gurl” on the way to the airport, maybe the last time I discovered a song like that. The lyrics are hypnotically moronic. On the radio version, Gucci lays down fool-proof instructions in the chorus: “She’s a very freaky girl / Don’t take her home to mother / First you get her name, then you get her number / Then you get-some get-some in the front seat of the hummer.” (The actual uncensored version—“get some brain”—is less satisfying for some reason.) The verses are even dumber, to a degree that seems like a joke (“You’s a college girl? Come be a Gucci girl”). The beat, however, alternates between standard late-’00s minimalist nonsense and a verse that sounds like a lost John Carpenter cue for Halloween; the contrast between the two component parts is impressive. The video’s even better: I don’t know if Gucci actually realized what was happening in the video or just did as he was told, but here he’s depicted alienating every single woman he leers at. They all walk away in disgust as he toasts himself (the other glass is rested on his Hummer). The rest of the video depicts Gucci rapping against a remarkably prison-/purgatory-like backdrop.

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #50 - #41

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #50 - #41
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #50 - #41

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

50. Daft Punk, “Harder Better Faster Stronger” (Discovery, 2001)
Indie kids learn to dance blah blah blah. If I’d ever foreseen that Daft Punk’s totally euphoric Discovery would ever be drafted into some kind of stupid trajectory about how the head-nod, arms-crossed, irony-laden crowd of the early ’00s learned to dance and embrace pure joy and YOUTH VITALITY LOVE SEX, I probably never would’ve listened to it. I don’t know when this became true, but at some point dancing became an ideological issue for a certain kind of under-30 cohort, the idea being that anyone who says they don’t like to dance is either lying or afraid to embrace their true visceral impulses. You can like dance music without wanting to dance, and I don’t care what Lady Gaga has to say on the subject. As the Rev. Jesse Jackson once said when speaking at my high school, “Some Negroes ain’t got no rhythm.” Let me substitute the most obviously contentious word in there: Some of us can’t dance, and we’d appreciate it if you stopped telling us to stop being embarrassed and just be joyous. Also, on Halloween we don’t feel like making costumes. Can we enjoy our drinks in peace now?

Anyway. Discovery is a pretty much universally beloved album for anyone who’s heard it; this song is generally a consensus highlight, and I love it very much. There’s very little I can do to describe its sonic qualities freshly: There’s AutoTune distortion years before it was cool (everyone assumed it was vocoder, including me), and super-badass synth breakdowns, and it’s all unstoppably propulsive. So I’ll just explain how it works on me. For some reason, my freshman year of college I was saddled with a miserable crew of randomly assigned roommates: The psychopath who eventually tore a door off its hinges and was banned from housing, the stoners who stayed up ’til 5 am on shrooms and talked about the intelligence of dolphins, the rabidly Jewish guy who berated me for not being Jewish enough and practiced banjo in the small room’s confines to play along with his favorite jam-band/Oasis riffs and giggled at his own farts. (A banjo, for those of you who’ve never gotten up close, is absurdly loud.) In the middle of this, I got into one of those ill-advised attempted bonding sessions, and somehow I put Discovery on and the usual idiot grin I get listening to it beamed across my face. “I’ve never seen you so happy,” said one of the roomies, which is tribute to a) how oblivious they were to the misery they were inflicting on me and b) the power of the album to inflict joy on you when you’re in the middle of an atrocious year. All I have to do is head-nod and grin; the other kids can dance.

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #60 - #51

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #60 - #51
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #60 - #51

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

60. William Shatner, “Common People” (Has Been, 2004)
It’s impossible to overstate how important Elliott Smith was to me from, say, ages 16-20. I was an awkward and unsociable post-adolescent, unable to sort out the teen angst from the real problems. I realized my faux-depression was immature and self-indulgent; that’s part of the reason I liked Smith so much, because he conveyed the same tension. Here was a guy writing beautifully-organized, impeccably arranged pop songs, only to fuck them all up with lyrical self-pity despite being old enough to know better. This isn’t necessarily how I feel about his work now (he had legitimate trauma to process)—but yes, there was a deliberately bratty depression thrown in there for good measure, which I dug. (Cf. “Looking Over My Shoulder”: “All I want to do is write another sonic fuck you.”) And then he killed himself and I went into mourning for two weeks, more or less. I went to a magnet high school that (Austin being Austin) might as well have been Indie Rock High, all bright middle-class white kids with collegiate music taste; his suicide was announced on Pitchfork at 8am, and by noon people who were normally friendly but distant were asking me if I was OK. I wasn’t; I was being a stupid 17-year-old, sure, but Smith’s work meant more to me than, say, most members of my immediate family.

Fast forward one year later, when the posthumous From A Basement On a Hill was getting released; I was now at NYU, but still kind of thinking like a high-schooler. I called an acquaintance and—for the first and almost certainly last time in my life—marched off to the Virgin Megastore to snap up a copy at the midnight sale. I got anticipatorily anxious in case it didn’t live up to his back catalogue, since this was all the new material left as far as I knew. As it turned out, the album was a mess—by far his worst, put together according to his not-very-clear wishes (“Ostriches and Chriping,” a negligible ambient wash, probably isn’t even his song). That same week, William Shatner put out his album, and it was better; Pitchfork’s back-to-back reviews, initially sacrilegious-seeming, were accurate. And this became strangely heartening.

There’s about seven really good tracks on Has Been, which is as much as anyone can ask for on an album that should’ve just been a queasy novelty; as a bonus, it’s the best thing Ben Folds has ever done with his mostly wasted talent. “Common People” is probably Pulp’s greatest achievement, as epic as “Baby O’Riley” but way less simplistic lyrically (class warfare in the post-Thatcher age, etc.), harnessing appropriately cheap keyboards to an unstoppably anthemic chorus. Shatner had apparently never heard it before Folds brought it to him. He might have actually taken the time to study and understand what he’s saying, or he might be bluffing and applying his signature weird reading patterns indiscriminately, but it doesn’t matter; his reading of the song is no less histrionic than Jarvis Cocker’s. Instrumentally, it’s not bad at all: Folds scrubs it down to clean, sharp keyboards and drums. What really sells it is Joe Jackson belting out the chorus in a proper way Shatner’s incapable of. The net result is a New Wave icon, ’90s semi-alternative brat and 60-something relic uniting to affirm that this one song is, indeed, a masterpiece. The song itself is aces; the cover proves how easy it is to love it even if you’re not a lower-class Brit seething with class resentment.

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #70 - #61

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #70 - #61
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #70 - #61

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

70. RJD2, “Ghostwriter” (Deadringer, 2002)
The third (and last, thank God) song on this list mostly for using an unlikely sample in a hip-hop context. On “Devil’s Pie,” Mark Ronson makes a big, showy spectacle out of sampling the unsample-able—which is fun and all, but RJD2 simply speeds up and pitchshifts the unlikely vocal and flawlessly sneaks it into the song otherwise intact. Anyone who didn’t know the source wouldn’t find it the least bit incongruous, and I tend to favor understatement anyway. The song is Elliott Smith’s “I Didn’t Understand”—not just his usual fragile and decidedly unfunky song, but an a cappella one to boot. All that’s really being sampled is the first 8 seconds or so, and they come in slowly, answering a humming soul voice (Betty Wright, Wikipedia tells me); an unlikely but flawless union. The entire intro vocal is finally used before launching into the final brass riff, and it somehow makes sense.

RJD2 eventually went in some poorly-reviewed direction or other I didn’t follow; apparently things got a lot whiter and clumsier. But for a bit, RJD2 was sort of roughly splashing around in the same kiddie pool—hip-hop beats for white kids who only listened “for the beats” anyway—as DJ Shadow, who’d been MIA for a while. At least that’s how it played in high school (though that’s certainly not what Shadow or RJD2 were going for). I presume there were indie rock kids somewhere who were equally comfortable bumping radio rap and Spoon with equal frequency in 2002, but I didn’t know any (and maybe that’s because Pitchfork simply wasn’t reviewing it yet; who knows). In an interview I can’t find online anymore, RJD2 talked about how he generally tried to avoid dragging his indie rock collection into his hip-hop work but couldn’t resist this once; that attitude doesn’t help anyone, but I understand exactly where his unease is coming from. “Ghostwriter” is an excellent song, but it’s also a tense reminder of the automatic suspicion I used to approach all things hip-hop with. Smith’s presence on “Ghostwriter” automatically validated the song for me faster than anything else on the album. That kind of thinking just makes me kind of uncomfortable now.

Best of the Aughts A Single Take, #80 - #71

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Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #80 - #71
Best of the Aughts: A Single Take, #80 - #71

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the previous installment of this feature.

80. Tapes ’N Tapes, “Hang Them All” (Walk It Off, 2008)
Textbook blog-hype band: first album praised beyond (but only a little beyond) its merits by the blog cognoscenti, automatically slammed by same for their follow-up. I don’t wish to hate upon the undeniably enthusiastic voluntary sifters of new music or accuse anyone I don’t know of insincerity, but to a certain extent it seems like it didn’t matter at all what the quality of Tapes ’N Tapes’s follow-up would be. Like the British music press but faster and more aggressive, the blogosphere frowns upon bands who have the nerve to stick around after they’ve been sufficiently praised. Walk It Off’s back half is pretty weak, but the first half-hour is as good as (or better) than The Loon; it must’ve been the heavy-gloss Dave Fridmann production that annoyed some knee-jerk types. This is simply one of the smartest indie-rock songs of 2008, with every possible harmonic and rhythmic crack filled in; the main riff is two super-aggressive leaps (a 10th and an octave, one nestled inside the other), the guitars work in near-schematic rhythmic and harmonic counterpoint, and it never lets up. The chorus is as disciplinedly fierce as possible. That said, did hearing this at Urban Outfitters kill me a little and/or make me question whether my standards for aughts rockin’ are aggro enough? Yes. Even I’m not immune.