It may not seem like it's been that long, but The Strokes have been releasing albums for over a decade now (moment of silence for those reflecting on how they're as old as balls now). Since the release of their critically-acclaimed debut, Is This It, in 2001, the New York band has been bridging the coarse, unpolished sound of the garage band with the rock 'n roll aesthetics for some of the most accessible, guilt-free rock around. Four albums, a lengthy hiatus, and some solo projects later, The Strokes are back again with their fifth studio LP, Comedown Machine. As the dynamic of the band members has evolved over the years, so has their approach to music. But from the sound of their forthcoming album, officially out today, that isn't necessarily a negative thing. To pay tribute to the band's imminent comeback, we're counting down the 15 best songs by The Strokes.
Returning from a five-year hiatus in 2011, the onus was on The Strokes to burst back onto the scene with the same raw energy and sense of youthful confidence that had marked out their first three albums. As Angles' opening track, "Machu Picchu" proved that Julian Casblancas had lost neither his swagger nor that laid back, nasal drawl, but instead suggested that The Strokes had expanded their sonic palette somewhat. With a ska-like lurch to the opening melody, and a chorus more in line with the spiky rock of Is This It?, this was a welcome reminder that The Strokes were still relevant ten years on from their debut album.
The Strokes - Machu Picchu
"Welcome To Japan"
Album: Comedown Machine
It's always risky to include a brand new song in your "best of" list. Granted we've only had a week's worth of advance streaming to process Comedown Machine, and while it sounds little like anything we've previously heard from The Strokes, it might just prove to be their most cohesive effort since Is This It. While the album's first two singles were both entertaining albeit vastly different, neither touch the appeal of "Welcome to Japan." It's indie pop gold, from it's jaunty musical tone to Casablanca's whimsical lyrics. Any song that poses the question "what kind of asshole drives a Lotus?" is all right in our book.
Welcome To Japan - The Strokes (New 2013 Song)
Album: Is This It
The beauty in "Someday" is that through both the lyrics and the music itself, the band looks back to a better time. "In many ways, we'll miss the good old days," reminisces Casablancas—the song is drenched in nostalgia, and the sound is raw, as if uncensored. It's this unpolished, like-it-or-not attitude coupled with a sense of vulnerability when one reminisces is what makes this song so perfect. "Someday" is also one of the rare moments when the lyrics aren't drowned in cynicism, and these hopeful, longing lyrics sound just as good.
The Strokes - Someday
"Hard To Explain"
Album: Is This It
Weird to think that this was their first ever single, as many Strokes fans may have been introduced to the band through this song. Within the first few bars of percussions and repetitive guitar chords, you know they're onto something exciting. "Hard To Explain" is pure unhinged fun, and the overall sound reflects a certain mentality: when it really comes down to it, The Strokes don't give a shit about anything else but their craft. Why this song works on so many levels—from the five-second pause halfway through the song, to the relentless guitars—may be hard to explain, but it sure is easy to listen to it again and again (and again and again).
The Strokes - Hard To Explain
Album: Is This It
"Last Nite" is classic Strokes. It's always annoying when people call something "classic," but from the first strum of the guitar, to when the drums kick in, to the raspy, yearning vocals of Julian Casablancas, "Last Nite" is the New York band's signature in so many ways. Their brand of raucous and carefree yet completely refined rock & roll is especially evident in Albert Hammond Jr.'s guitar solo halfway through the song. Hammond Jr.'s skill is relentless as his fingers nonchalantly dances along the strings, casually exploding into a reverb-filled frenzy. Their undeniably fun garage rock-influenced music sounds as if it almost comes naturally to The Strokes, and "Last Nite" makes at least that much clear.