The Strokes’ 10 Best Songs

This feature was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated in honor of Julian Casablancas’ birthday on August 23rd.

October 20th, 2003: I’m sweating out a fever with my roommate while we wait patiently in the Best Buy parking lot to buy The Strokes’ highly-anticipated sophomore album, Room on Fire. I should be in bed, under the covers, back in our dorm, but instead, I’m sitting shotgun in his red Plymouth Neon, listening to the tail end of Is This It. I’ve heard three songs off Room already; the single “12:51” has been circulating radio for weeks, while “I Can’t Win” and “Meet Me in the Bathroom” are both live cuts from their previous tours, the former just begging for an actual mud-less listen. The clock strikes nine, we grab our album.

It feels like 20 years ago, not 10, since The Strokes impressed their fans with their wiser, rugged older brother of an album, Room on Fire. Maybe it’s because it was one of the last albums I waited patiently for outside the store, something so routine in the ’90s and yet a custom that died off the more we inched into the aughts. Or maybe it’s because the album sounds like something dustier than its contemporaries. In a year that saw Transatlanticism, Elephant, Give Up, Hail to the Thief, and EchoesRoom on Fire just doesn’t really belong.

But in the grand scheme of The Strokes’ rocky mythos, it does, and today, it’s now part of the greater argument of Is This It vs. Room on Fire. Paired together, they’re so similar, but taken apart, you start noticing the strengths and very minor weaknesses of either album. But that’s a debate for the fans; today, we’re celebrating New York’s finest with a roundup of The Strokes’ 10 best songs. Agree, disagree, or just sit back, listen, and wax nostalgic. (You can scroll to the end for a playlist of all 10 tracks.) I certainly don’t mind looking back, fever be damned.

Michael Roffman