The new millennium meant more than just dreadfully trendy Y2K styles and end-of-the-world rhetoric – it was also the dawn of a self-assured, mature age in rock.
Garage rock revival and indie hit their strides and introduced the mainstream to the sophisticated, instrumentally dynamic sound of a new century.
Britpop had a major comeback and indietronica came out of the left field with punchy synth and infectious melodies.
The 2000s are often overlooked but these bands are guaranteed to make it into the canon as their influence and scope are felt more acutely as time passes. Buckle in for the best bands of the 2000s.
1. The Killers
The Killers came in hot with their 2005 album Hot Fuss.
It is not an exaggeration to call this one of the defining albums for millennials and Gen X’ers and to call The Killers one of the most popular rock bands of the 2000s.
Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer, and Ronnie Vannucci Jr changed the shape of what rock meant for the 21st century.
They were gently flamboyant and self-assured, and they knew how to craft poetic, cryptic lyrics that packed a creative punch.
2. Kings of Leon
Drawling Southern indie rockers Kings of Leon are masters at straddling the border between country twang and folksy alternative.
Their early songs were replete with plucky guitars and compelling, mature riffs and melodies.
There is always an earnest sense of yearning in their songs, ensuring a down-to-earth feel no matter how hard their riffs get.
Give “Taper Jean Girl” a listen for the best intro to their repertoire.
3. Blink 182
California skater punks Blink 182 thrived in the late 90s, and they only heated up into the new millennium. Indeed, a list of bands from the 2000s would be incomplete without them.
Their music fused a plucky punk ethos with a spirited, emotive adolescent sensibility.
Their lyrics were clever, cheeky, and occasionally vulgar.
They made youthful petulance endearing, but their rousing ballads like “I Miss You” proved they were never one trick ponies.
4. Green Day
Green Day, like their peers, Blink 182, were skate punks from California with a fresh, unrepentant sound and a passion for cheeky lyrics and unexpected narratives.
They turned up the hard rock factor and moved away from their skate-punk roots post-2000.
But this was their golden age when it came to commercial success and they became a staple 2000s rock band.
Socially critical songs like “American Idiot” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” made them household names.
See also: Best 2000s Rock Songs
5. Arctic Monkeys
When it comes to Britpop, the Arctic Monkeys are probably the band most likely to attain legendary status in their own lifetimes.
Their lyrics are outrageously clever and they tell vivid, captivating stories through song.
Their punchy, complex melodies are addictive, and will likely be pub rock material for decades to come.
“Fluorescent Adolescent” (2007) is an epic example of their precocious wordsmithing abilities.
6. Franz Ferdinand
Scottish 2000s rock band Franz Ferdinand were met with instant critical and commercial acclaim when they released their self-titled album in 2004.
They displayed a stunning maturity and technical dexterity that belied their status as a breakthrough band.
They’ve been described as art rock and post punk revival. They are also generous with cultural references in their music, ultimately defying a neat label.
7. Red Hot Chili Peppers
The gold standard when it comes to critically acclaimed commercial bands, RHCP pioneered a sound so arresting and fresh that they’ve captivated the public imagination since their early days.
Their songs are soulful and candid, and they blend heartfelt lyrics with offbeat rap verses.
Their unorthodox instrumentals are heavy on funk, garage, skate, and psychedelic.
Go give Stadium Arcadium (2006) a spin.
California 00’s band Weezer mastered the art of being both quirky and commercially viable.
Their slacker, underdog schtick was charming and relatable and they began to acquire cult status at the beginning of the century.
Their brand of endearing geek pop was evidenced in early 2000s hits like “Hash Pipe”.
9. The White Stripes
Undisputed legends of the garage rock revival scene, Detroit-based The White Stripes are best remembered for their epic guitar anthem “Seven Nation Army”.
One of the defining songs of the decade, surely, but not the only feather in their cap.
They focused on a philosophy of lo-fi simplicity in their arrangements and performances.
Unstudied yet immensely talented, they were one of the defining rock bands of the top bands of the 2000s.
10. The Shins
The Shins are a sleeper hit, and deserve far more mainstream popularity.
Their harmonies are evocative and mesmerizing, their melodies are lush, and their vocals intrigue and captivate.
Their music is infectious yet immensely cultivated and mature.
Give 2001’s Oh, Inverted World a listen and skip right to their melodic ballad “New Slang” to get your toes wet.
11. The Strokes
Indie rockers extraordinaire, The Strokes were at the heart of the blossoming alternative garage scene that was emerging in the beginning of the millennium.
Based out of New York they had an art-rock sensibility and sartorial flair in spades.
Their brand of rock was enthusiastic and best highlighted in their 2001 album Is This It – you’ll see why they were one of the most popular bands of the 2000s.
12. Kaiser Chiefs
Leeds-based rockers Kaiser Chief were a well-timed act when it came to 2000s bands.
Brit-rock was enjoying a renewed momentum since its glory days in the early nineties.
They were inspired by punk rock and new wave and blended these genres to produce a distinct power pop sound.
Their music is pure fun, with unapologetic banter-like lyrics.
Emotive, sensible, and mature, Coldplay are arguably one of the most radio-friendly bands of the 2000s and beyond.
Their melodies were tender and poignant without veering into corny territory.
A hard balance to strike, but these British musicians make it look effortless.
14. Arcade Fire
A commercial and critical hit, Canadian group Arcade Fire pioneered a pensive, sophisticated brand of baroque pop.
They are top dog multi-instrumentalists, bringing their xylophone, cello, viola, harp and more along with them on tour.
Give the invigorating “Everything Now” a listen for an intro into their world and to see why they are considered a top band of the 2000s.
15. Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl is one of the low key heroes of the nineties and noughties.
He never courted celebrity, and that’s made him something of an icon in the eyes of alternative rock lovers anywhere.
The Foo Fighters’ post-grunge tenor adapted to fit the moods of a changing musical climate but one thing never changed: their commitment to pure, tightly constructed rock.
16. Vampire Weekend
New York rockers Vampire Weekend came into fame fast and furious and rapidly became a top pop band from the 2000s.
Their self-titled 2008 debut was a commercial success immediately.
Their charming, lyrical sound incorporated chamber, baroque, afro and worldbeat sounds.
Their epic 2010 album Contra even garnered them a lawsuit – influential much?
17. Queens of the Stone Age
California rockers QOTSA revived the hard rock tradition of the seventies with an updated psychedelic, Krautrock-inspired, rhythmic take.
Known for their impressive and unconventional guitar riffs and vocalist Josh Homme’s hypnotic falsetto, they broadened the scope of what was possible within the rock genre.
When it comes to hard rock bands of the 2000s they are undisputed legends.
18. The Raconteurs
Jack White from The White Stripes wears another hat with the masterful folksy garage rock band The Raconteurs.
Their rollicking, breezy hit “Steady, as She Goes” is a good introduction for the uninitiated.
The band was humble and without pretense – focused simply on creating solid music.
They consider themselves “a new band made up of old friends” but they quickly became the gold standard for 2000s alternative bands.
19. Mumford and Sons
London-bred Mumford and Sons nearly single-handedly turned indie folk into the major music genre of the late noughties and the decade that followed.
Their songs were humble, beautiful, and sophisticated.
They are musician’s musicians, producing thoughtful, lush melodies that will doubtless stand the test of time.
British 2000s band Kasabian created good old fashioned rock, infused with the requisite British wit and charm.
Their guitars were self-assured, their multi-layered vocals were compelling, and their drum notes were always immaculately timed.
They moved in a more electronic direction as their careers progressed but lost none of their verve.
In 2010 they won the “Best Act in the World Today” award by Q magazine.
21. The War on Drugs
While The War on Drugs truly took off post-2010 the soulful, soft-psychedelic indie that they originated began to take shape with their 2008 album Wagonwheel Blues.
Formed by the multi-talented Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile, their music transcends easy definition.
It is dreamy, serene, haunting – and also crammed with poetic lyrics that touch on issues of loneliness, depression, and heartbreak.
22. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Indie electronic band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs emerged out of the New York underground scene with an unapologetic, art-punk sensibility.
Their music was made for both the dance floor and the dive bar, and they captured the attitude and gregariousness of their native city.
One of the buzziest, most popular bands in the 2000s.
23. Linkin Park
Did you really live through the millenium if you didn’t spend a moody, stroppy night in your room blasting Linkin Park and moaning about how no one got you? We think not.
With affected, mournful vocals and assertive, hypnotic instrumentals, they got their big break with their 2000 album Hybrid Theory.
Early 2000s bands don’t come more iconic then these California kings.
California rockers Incubus were masters at blending different references into a cohesive whole.
They flirted with thrash, post-grunge,electro and jazz while maintaining a consistent quality.
Always eclectic and creatively brazen, Incubus are mainstays of the alternative rock genre and a star early 2000s rock band.
Wilco came into the 2000s in a major way with their controversy-plagued 2001 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
Long story short, their label didn’t want to put out the album – so they left their record label and proceeded to stream the album for free on their own website.
The album was a critical success, showcasing their folksy, atmospheric art rock.
When it comes to rock bands of the 2000s, they were certainly one of the most fearless and modestly self-assured.
A youthful verve resonates throughout the Klaxons’ bold and peppy sonic offerings.
Strands of new rave and dance punk course through songs like “Gravity’s Rainbow” and “Golden Skans”.
Electronic rock was emerging in a major way at the beginning of the century and the Klaxons put a happy face on it.
Tennessee based Paramore rode on the wave of the emo craze that took hold of youth culture in the early and mid noughties.
Their music was spunky, urgent, and a staple of the power pop genre.
Their 2007 album Riot! was a worldwide success and cemented their reputation as a pop band of the 2000s to watch out for.
28. The Fratellis
Glasgow-based The Fratellis created punchy, charismatic tunes that were destined for rotation at pubs around the world.
Their rollicking tune “Chelsea Dagger” has entered the canon of catchy, sing-along British rock anthems.
They’ve got us eyes wide and tongue tied, to quote the title of one of their hit albums.
29. Snow Patrol
Northern Irish/Scottish indie rockers Snow Patrol were part of the Post-Britpop movement, whereby groups from the Isles began to experiment with brighter, spunkier, more commercially-friendly sounds.
Their 2006 song “Chasing Cars” was voted the song of the decade by Channel 4.
When it comes to bands of the 2000s, they were one of the most commercially successful.
Low mood rockers like none other, Radiohead has become something of a legend when it comes to lo-fi, despondent alternative fare.
Their 2000 album Kid A was an evolution of their style, and incorporated elements of jazz and Krautrock.
Rolling Stone magazine has named them one of the top 100 bands of all time.
They were one of the best rock bands of the 2000s and beyond.
31. Bloc Party
Lo-fi indie band Bloc Party had their fingers on the pulse of the time.
They checked all the boxes, so to speak: British, indie, electronic-tinged – check.
Their cooler than thou credentials were demonstrated by moody, intriguing songs like “Like Eating Glass”.
Nickelback gets almost as much hate as Nicholas Cage. Is it deserved or not? That depends on your taste.
But opinions aside, Nickelback has carved out a niche for themselves, and have constructed an entirely new, inimitable sound.
Raised in rural Canada, their songs have a jock-rock feel that evokes their roots.
Chad Kroeger’s deep, burly voice may have inspired a thousand memes, but dig a bit deeper: they have some killer tunes in their holster.
33. The Black Keys
Ohio-bred rock band of the 2000s The Black Keys effortlessly fused twangy southern, indie, and garage rock to great effect.
They were part of the revival of garage rock that took the music industry by storm in the first few years of the new century.
Their bluesy rock hit “Lonely Boy” shot them to mainstream success, but they had been producing high quality rock since 2003.
34. Good Charlotte
Slacker pop-punk rockers Good Charlotte made a splash with their 2002 album The Young and the Hopeless.
They had a peppy, outcast energy that endeared them to angsty adolescents everywhere.
Popular bands of the 2000s scarcely came better: their music was tongue in cheek, sing-along fun.
35. The Mars Volta
Texas based progressive 2000s rock band Mars Volta always danced to the beat of their own drum, carving out their own little space in the alternative world.
They were experimental at every turn, blending piano and jazz notes with a stylish portfolio of references.
If you’ve ever wondered what seventies psychedelic would sound like blended with garage rock – this is your band.
36. Simple Plan
Canadian pop-punk band Simple Plan were corny and over the top in the best possible way.
Their music was unabashedly feisty and uncomplicated, and they made a niche for themselves on the softer side of bands like Blink 182 and Sum 41.
For some nostalgic meltdown energy throw on some “I’m Just a Kid” – you’ll see why they were a fave pop band of the 2000s.
37. Modest Mouse
Washington rockers Modest Mouse made a steady career for themselves with unconventional rhythms and an aestheticized, indie silhouette.
They were inspired by early nineties legends Pixies and eighties new wave radicals Talking Heads and these influences show in arresting songs like “Float On”.
Popular 2000s bands were rarely as eclectic.
38. No Doubt
The quintessential Cali pop punk band, Gwen Stefani and No Doubt only became more brazen and self-assured as Y2K came into its own.
Their peppy dance tunes “Hella Good” and “Hey Baby” elevated them to commercial success.
Their sound combined ska, funk, and bubblegum pop for a rollicking good musical experience.
39. System of a Down
With lyrics heavy on lunacy, provocations, and intransigence, System of A Down created an entirely different musical experience.
Their pace was frantic, their instrumentals shrill and discordant, and their vocals compellingly erratic.
Their 2005 hit “B.Y.O.B” is a good intro to their sound.
40. Nine Inch Nails
Alternative, moody nineties band Nine Inch Nails maintained their industrial, complex sound into the 2000s, gaining more momentum as they went.
They blended sonic explosions of hard-hitting instrumentals with lullaby melodies.
The effect was epitomized in 2005’s “With Teeth”.
A popular band of 2000 and beyond.
British band Muse absorbed and reimagined all the best tendencies of the nineties.
With an invigorating falsetto, allusions to classical romanticism and a melancholic disposition, Muse was an indie alternative group with panache.
They rounded out their unusual sound with string instruments and vibrant live performances.
U2 featured on our list of the best bands of the 80s and 90s and their output during the 2000s was no less impressive.
Soulful, occasionally baleful, always melodic, U2 raised the profile of Irish music and left an indelible cultural impact.
They came into the decade strong with 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
Interpol are an alternative/ post-punk revival band from the Big Apple.
They were a major part of the burgeoning indie scene in NYC along with other favorites like The Strokes.
They blended staccato bass and heavy, harmonic snares.
Their erudite 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights was a commercial hit and drew comparisons to bands like Joy Division.
Indietronic, neo-psychedelic legends MGMT carried a whole new genre on their shoulders, mesmerizing club and warehouse party goers alike with their criminally catchy hits “Kids”, “Time to Pretend”, and “Electric Feel”.
Their synth-heavy, frantic energy was always balanced with a hip and nonchalant silhouette.
One of the most enduringly popular bands from the 2000s.
45. The Hives
Swedish band The Hives were a fundamental part of the garage rock revival that emerged hot in the early 2000s.
Their 2000 pub rock anthem “Hate to Say I Told You So” introduced their spunky, enthusiastic sound to listeners everywhere.
Their sound was self-assured and deviously sassy.
46. Fall Out Boy
Zany pop-punk rockers Fall Out Boy made a major commercial splash when they emerged on the scene.
Their musical sound was peppy, relentless, and disarmingly charming.
Their frenetic hits “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and “Dance, Dance” show off their rousing style.
47. Jimmy Eat World
Jimmy Eat World’s inspirational teen angst song “The Middle” just about defined high school circa 2001.
They released four best selling albums during the decade, and their pop punk sound was extremely of the moment.
They were emo pop lite before emo pop emerged in a major way in the early 2000s.
48. Panic at The Disco
A baroque pop band with an only slightly affected name, Panic! At the Disco emerged on the wave of the emo/scenester craze that took hold around 2005.
Panic was all about edgy theatricality and high-octave, frenetic tunes.
Their polarizing, yet commercially successful debut A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (2005) is a relic of the early millennium.
Welsh alternative rockers Stereophonics were renowned for their Britpop sound and “whiskey vocals”.
Their introspective, erudite, whimsical song lyrics pair well with their clever disposition and lush piano and guitars.
Their 2001 album Just Enough Education to Perform is a good starting point for accessing their witty, complex sound.
Quirky Austin rock band Spoon have been described as experimental art-rock.
They struck a trendy figure with their unpretentious hipster silhouette and offbeat iconoclasm.
They have been compared to 90s indie legends Pixies and Pavement.
You’ve definitely heard their college rock classic “The Way We Get By”.
Gorillaz founder Damon Albarn is something of a Renaissance man.
He has created several musical acts and has produced an impressive portfolio of solo work.
Gorillaz is an aesthetic, performative band like none other.
They tackle social commentary with a lite-industrial, lo-fi sensibility.
Lead singer Johnny Borrell once claimed his band was the next Beatles.
It may not quite have played out that way, but that same shameless confidence is evidenced in their bright-eyed, melodic hits.
The breezy pop anthem “Before I Fall to Pieces” and their reflective ode “America” are as good as anything to come out of the second wave Brit-pop movement, if not better.
53. Death Cab for Cutie
Emo pop band Death Cab for Cutie hail from the rainy Bellingham, Washington and when it comes to early 2000s rock bands, they were big news.
They broke into the mainstream with their commercial hit Transatlanticism (2003).
Pitchfork Magazine described their style as “ultra lo-fi” and that’s a pretty apt description for their reflective fare.
54. Postal Service
Proof that Seattle’s star was shining well into the new century, Postal Service had an indietronica style that felt completely of the moment when they released their 2003 debut Give Up.
Ben Gibbard’s serene voice paired well with their complex, thoughtful instrumentals.
A 2000s pop band with heart and sensitivity.
55. New Found Glory
Florida pop punk 2000s band New Found Glory are unstudied, unsophisticated, and damn proud of it.
Their 2002 album Sticks and Stones ushered them into the mainstream and endeared them to stroppy, energetic adolescents everywhere.
They experimented with more alternative fare as the decade progressed but they never lost their vitality.
French rock band straight out of Versailles? Enter early 2000s band Phoenix.
Synth and electronic pop-rock music had never felt quite so upbeat and delightfully uncomplicated.
Their peppy, rousing sound is best evidenced in their hit “1901”, a veritable anthem of the early 2000s.
57. The Flaming Lips
Offbeat, eccentric, and inimitable, The Flaming Lips are Oklahoma’s own homegrown anti-celebrities.
They cultivated strong psychedelic roots and superimposed unorthodox lyrics on top of their acoustic, occasionally electronic sound.
Their 2002 albumYoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a good entry into their corpus.
58. Bright Eyes
Indie emo legends Bright Eyes were a top band of the 2000s and a turn of the millennium fave for all the sensitive souls out there.
They gloried in emotional complexity and navel-gazing aestheticism.
Their harmonies featured flutes, accordions, and pianos for a rich sonic experience.
Lead singer Conor Oberst is something of a sad-boy icon.
59. Avenged Sevenfold
California heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold are one of the best in class when it comes to their genre.
As they matured in their musical careers their metalcore sound gave way to a more hard rock sound, but they never lost their passion for dramatic, intricate imagery and full-throttle performances.
2000’s rock bands? Think Avenged Sevenfold.
60. My Chemical Romance
My Chemical Romance was the voice of a disaffected, emotionally reflective generation.
These New Jersey emo/post hardcore musicians are considered one of the most formative bands of the early century.
Their unapologetic, unflinching 2006 hit “Welcome to the Black Parade” endeared them to outcasts everywhere.
61. TV On The Radio
New York indie eccentrics TV on the Radio have a cult following among the more serious alternative fans among us, and for good reason.
Their sound can only be described as kooky and irreverent.
These guys were always in on the joke and treated music like comedic, theatrical narratives.
Give “Wolf Like Me” a listen for a riotous time.
62. The Streets
British working class legends The Streets debuted to well-deserved critical acclaim and fanfare.
Their music is tongue in cheek, sardonic, and always prescient.
They don’t shy away from vulgar or controversial topics and their conversational rap style and smooth melodies are distinguishable immediately.
63. The Libertines
Pete Doherty, Carl Barat et al re-romanticised the trope of the starving, drug-addled musical genius.
They created their own little world with strangely beautiful melodies and raspy, affected vocals.
Favorites of the alternative British rock scene, The Libertines didn’t apologize to anyone, letting their impressive musical output speak for itself.
San Francisco pop rock band Train created emotionally complex tunes made for the radio and romantic films alike.
They have sold over 10 million albums since their inception in 1993.
Their melodies are catchy and their style is sincere and guileless. “Hey, Soul Sister” is destined to be a hit on easy listening radio for the next century.
65. The New Pornographers
Canadian indie rock 2000’s pop band The New Pornographers was a self-styled musical collective, featuring a talented lineup of individual singer-songwriters.
They dabbled with power pop and post-punk revival elements and demonstrated the heights music can reach when collaboration and individuality is nurtured and honored.
66. Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles hit the indie-electronica nail on the head with their dizzying hit “Vanished”.
This duo was unafraid to lean into their alternative-cool credentials, and they quickly became a favorite of indie local brewery types everywhere.
Often overlooked in round-ups of the best 2000s bands, we won’t make that error here.
67. Cut Copy
Australian synth-pop band Cut Copy rarely get the accolades they deserve.
Their dreamy, spacey sound was a thrilling reimagining of the harder new wave of the eighties.
Catchy, ethereal songs like “Far Away” and the lush “Strangers in the Wind” are required listening for fans of thoughtful indietronica.
Often considered a staple of the riotgrrrl genre, Washington based alt-legends Sleater-Kinney defy one simple label.
They are indie legends for those in the know and their music doesn’t shy away from liberal, feminist, controversial themes.
Sleater-Kinney are authentic to the core and demonstrate how effective a no-frills persona was in the rock world of the new millennium.
69. The Decemberists
Indie rock band The Decemberists are so delightfully Portland that it hurts.
They blend baroque pop with indie with folk to create a reflective, pensive, whimsical listening experience.
They are well regarded for their quirky historical and folkloric references and lush ballads.
One of the most sophisticated alternative rock bands of the 2000s.
70. Matchbox Twenty
Florida alt-rockers Matchbox 20 distilled the wistfulness and despondency of getting by in the modern age with wit and candor.
Their 2002 album More Than You Think You Are hits home with a mellow, college radio energy and earnest lyrical flourishes.
A rock band of the early 2000s like none other.
British alternative band Keane achieved mainstream success with their debut album Hopes and Fears (2004) which remains one of the best selling British albums of all time.
Their defining feature is the use of keyboards as the main instrument, displacing the supremacy of the guitar.
Distorted piano and mid-tempo melodies round out their introspective lyrics.
72. LCD Soundsystem
Alternative dance met its match in American band LCD Soundsystem.
Experimental and original to a fault, they produced a strange, intoxicating medley of soft vocals and hard synth.
Their confident 2002 hit “Losing My Edge” is a good intro to their intense, full-body experience sensibility.
73. The National
With his raspy, sensual voice Matt Berninger elevated The National’s mature, composed sound.
Their music has an indie, art-rock mood and features refined, thought-provoking lyrics and masterful guitar chords.
Four of their albums were listed in NME’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
74. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
You haven’t heard garage revival rock until you’ve heard BRMC’s lush, ethereal heartbreak anthem “Love Burns”.
These San Francisco alternative musicians are far from the mainstream but they have a loyal fanbase in the underground indie scene.
Their self-titled 2001 debut should be mandatory listening for fans of melodic garage fare.
75. 3 Doors Down
Mississippi rockers 3 Doors Down have sold over 30 million albums worldwide.
Their sound is a blend of stirring alternative rock, post-grunge, and Southern.
They sing straight from the heart about loss, revenge, heartbreak, and conflict.
Their emotive power ballad “Here Without You” is as good as any melodramatic Skid Row ballad from the eighties.
2000s Rock Bands – Final Thoughts
Have we convinced you that the 2000s were an exciting, fertile new frontier for music? If not, go back and read through that list again.
From garage rock revival to indie to electronica to pop-punk, there is no shortage of playful, emotive, original music from that heady decade.
When it comes to rock bands from the 2000s, we have you more than covered.