Five songs from the 2000s that have no business being as excellent as they are

These five tracks remain better than anyone should have hoped for. .
Matt Bellamy of Muse
Matt Bellamy of Muse / Gie Knaeps/GettyImages
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The Decemberists - "The Engine Driver" (2005)

Colin Meloy has always had a great gift for lyrics. While he doesn't stray overly far from the central core of the band - there is always a wry smile whether the song is one of unflinching love or murder ("The Rake's Song") - there is enough grey in what the band does, plenty of grey actually, that Meloy can find the corners that have not yet been cleaned.

"The Engine Driver" is a perfect song for a potentially dying relationship. Things can still be fixed, but does either party want them to be? If they aren't the narrator will be fine only with a lingering urge to know what might have happened. The third true verse contains this bit of brilliance: "And I am a writer, writer of fictions/I am the heart that you call home/And I've written pages upon pages/Trying to rid you from my bones."

We can all empathize with that, right? Poems we write that no one ever sees. They remain our truth all the same.

White Stripes - "Black Math" (2003)

Jack White offers us a juxtaposition with this song. We can learn things we don't want to or we can be stuck where we are. The track begins with perhaps White doing the best version of blues-punk he has ever done - and White has done a lot of that and done so extremely well - but then a bit over a minute into the track, he changes everything.

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Jack White plays bluesy hard rock music. He has never been what most would call metal. That said, a minute into "Black Math" is the heaviest riff one will hear today. Black Sabbath could have been influenced by White at that point had they been a group young enough to be influenced. The vocals change as well, but then change again later in the tune.

"Black Math" is really two songs in one, and each is worthy of its own listen. That White combined them is something few artists can do with such excellence. Jack White makes it seem easy.

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