It is no surprise that rock and roll has concealed itself from the public eye and escaped the household name notoriety that groups from The Beatles to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers held for countless years. As the average listener is engulfed into a saturated world of rap, pop, indie, and hell, even country, the rock sound that was so dominant in the latter 20th century has become an afterthought in the ears of the modern listener.
The image of the modern rock artist has been reduced to nothing but a glamoured bar-band that has the distortion turned up a little bit too high, or your 2019 Grammy winners for best rock album: Greta Van Fleet. Fuck Greta Van Fleet.
To help you navigate the modern swamp that is rock music circa 2019, we have compiled some of our favorites to give you a taste of a genre that is still very much alive and producing quality sounds. The offerings here, much like modern rock today, vary. Whether you want Tame Impala-esque psychedelic rock or a John Mayer impersonation, we have you covered.
Cars is the type of song that, if it works for you, will stop you dead in your tracks with its hypnotic charm. It feels very folky, featuring big guitar strums and simple percussion, but also lets loose, using the saxophone heavily as lead singer Louis Smith begs for the world to just slow down. It’s a good song for reflection or if you just want to let go of everything at the end of the night.
This is one of the most triumphant songs about hard times ever. Sounding like a cross of Southern Rock and Grunge, Canadian band The Glorious Sons take you on an angsty romp that screams at the depths of depression and bad luck.
Lines like “I don’t know who to trust” and “you got hooked on Oxycodone” punctuate the song’s dark sentiment. Yet the track itself never sounds depressing, in fact, it could even be described as fun, further driving home the lyrics’ point. If you’re not singing along by the end, I don’t know what to tell you.
If you feel like dancing, this is the song for you. Upbeat and catchy, The Next Time We Wed induces electric ecstasy, propelling the listener, and the good times, through the night. Try to resist its poppy allure at your own peril. Who knows, you might even feel your feet start to move with it.
HAIM sound a lot like a modern, more plugged in version of Fleetwood Mac. In fact, you may have already heard of the all-girl band from their features for artists like Calvin Harris and Kid Cudi.
Little Of Your Love is an excellent example both of HAIM’s talent and of modern rock’s diversity. The track has infectious energy as vocals, guitar, drums, and piano all vie for the listener’s attention, transforming the song into a hyper-focused jam session. What makes it even more interesting is that they liberally use a voice modifier to replicate a deeper pitch, something I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. The final minute or so is among my favorite sequences in all of music as the distinct sounds converge into a climactic outro, highlighted by a roaring guitar.
From the opening, Hiding In The Melody’s only goal is to take you somewhere else. Its various guitar riffs wail on throughout the seven-minute song as lyrics like “how I wanted to try” and “how I wanted to be there” give the epic sound emotional resonance. Much like Cars, it’s great for the end of the night or for introspection, but also if you want to just trip out. It’s a psychedelic rock ride that’ll keep lifting you higher.
Australian band Gang of Youths produced this chill banger back in 2017 but it becomes more relevant by the day. It spins the somber tale of someone who has given up their dreams and any sense of care. As he spirals in disillusion, a youthful hope approaches him. While the two dance the night away, he implores the children of the next generation not to lose faith like he did. All of his nights are apathetically the same because “sometimes life sucks and everything is gray,” but maybe it’ll be different for you. Despite this, the track isn’t sad, but rather looks at eternity and delivers a toast to whatever may come. Fuck me if that isn’t relatable in 2019.
Drift away with the chorus as it consists of atmospheric howling and powerful violins. To me, it’s a near perfect song that captures what modern rock can be and makes me excited for what’s next.
With groovy guitar and engaging melodies, Parquet Courts keep you on your feet from beginning to end as the fun and upbeat piano takes your hand. A. Savage’s vocals are confident and raw as he echoes the sentiment of a garage-rock band, full of passion and authenticity.
The whole album Wide Awake! is an amazing piece of work in itself. If you wanted to know where the good rock is in 2019, look no further than Parquet Courts’ latest album, but brace yourselves; it slaps.
The Districts present an interesting take on the state of modern rock with regard to their dynamic sound and emphasis on distortion. The power chords are gripping as the Pennsylvania band takes you on a ride of an orchestra of raw and uncut guitar as singer Rob Grote belts out: “long way down from the top to the bottom.”
The Districts are still a young and rising rock band that needs to find some more consistency in their sound. However, if you dig Young Blood, be sure to check our their other hits Long Distance and Funeral Beds.
The 18-year-old Maryland product’s Heat Wave possesses such depth with strong accompanied vocals, the fact that the whole album is such a cohesively strong piece is remarkable in itself.
The emotional maturity that Snail Mail demonstrates as she navigates the treacherous waters of relationships and love, bringing it all together with a confidently powerful bridge that straps you down in a straightjacket of teenage of assertion: “I’m not into sometimes.”
Without a doubt, Aphasia can be easily penciled in as one of my favorite songs, ever. With enough flavors to warrant a charge for extra toppings, this song touches on the roots of indie rock with mixing in tastes of folk, country, grunge and tops it all off with a garage-rock nostalgia.
Singer Evan Stephens Hall performs perfectly in sync with accompanied instrumentals, which leads to a satisfying sound and journey as the listener embarks on a universal ballad of self-discovery and actualization. Also, easily one of the best videos on YouTube is their performance of Aphasia on Audiotree Live.
-Mason Robinson and Nick Shiffman