The rumors of rock music’s demise, to loosely paraphrase Mark Twain, have always been greatly exaggerated. Where do these whispers of death originate? Perhaps, they are born out of generational bitterness from one rock age to another. The good ol’ days die hard and make what is new out to be evil, foreign, or without merit to each set of rockers.
The culprit could be genre bias, a set of sonic boundary lines that no one dares cross. As a result, this bias leaves the listener ensconced within their preferences and cloistered from those of others. Therefore, no room for growth is allowed and death wishes abound.
Rock music has evolved in style, but at its core it has remained the same. The essence of a jagged edge guitar, tumbling drums, and a domineering bass are still its common thread through the ages. What has changed is the packaging. You would never mistake pop-punk for hardcore or metal for surf rock. It is the many versions of rock that have populated the scene over the decades that keep it healthy and diverse.
Beyond the music itself, there are other factors to consider in favor of rock’s vitality. The outlets by which the genre can proliferate are varied, but highly effective. Also, the ever-growing independent movement gives autonomy to artists. These are only a small sampling of the items on this list, which includes “you-oughta-know” bands to keep rock alive and well.
10. Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and Other Streaming Sites
Do-it-yourself recordings, self-released EPs, and singles from signed artists alike all can be found on streaming sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp. The benefit of this kind of exposure is a level playing field. “Undiscovered” becomes a relative term, meaning there is a much shorter path from obscurity to recognition.
As close and “grassroots” as it gets, the accessibility of streaming is the strongest resource that all independent artists have to get their music heard. Today, the garage band can play for the world and not solely within ear shot of their neighborhood.
9. Proliferation of Independent Record Labels
The definition of independent or ‘indie’ music comes from the days of college rock radio of the ‘90s, which gave the world the alternative rock/grunge movement in a wave of flannel and droning, post-punk bass. Today, “independent” means outside of the major recording labels. While it is debatable whether or not a major label still carries the same weight as it once did, it is clear that the multiplying indie labels have a large stake in the game.
Merge Records has been around since 1989 and claims artists such as Bob Mould, Richard Buckner, Spoon, Esperanza Spalding, and M. Ward as members. An eclectic bunch of rising stars and staples in the indie music scene, Merge Records is one of the many examples of how indie labels are staking their claim in the recording industry.
8. Punk is Alive and Well
In the early to mid-2000s, punk made a comeback. Well, a spiffy pop version of the snot-nosed rock came in to vogue, anyhow. Eventually, the trend that gave use the term “guyliner” faded out, but not before the flood of pseudo goth-punk washed over the scene.
Today’s punk is back to playing it louder, faster, and harder than the next guy. If you like your punk to be guttural, check out together PANGEA. These slop punks hit the right chord of snarly sneers and haphazard hooks.
7. Purling Hiss: Noise Rock Nuisance
Master melodic manipulator, Mike Polizze contorts his chords into ultra-high frequencies as the noise rock project, Purling Hiss. Give his latest release, Weirdon, a spin and you will find yourself in for numerous bouts of rubber band guitar; bowing high and low in pitch throughout. The tension fluctuates wildly, but Purling Hiss is not a run of the mill experimental jam project. Polizze is a captivating guitarist who has a firm handle on how far he can tweak his chords without crumbling.
6. Foxygen: A New Dynamic Duo
Foxygen is a crunchy blend of ‘70s soft rock and psychedelic influences. A breed all of their own, Foxygen keep you guessing between bouts of soothing white noise rock and manic experimentation. When they are not busy channeling their inner Jagger, the guys are also unafraid of crinkling up the vocals for an added bite. Their feathery, lo-fi double album, …And Star Power, harkens back to spacey, strut-worthy glam rock verging on trippy psych. However, amidst all of the bravado and falsetto, Foxygen are all about avoiding concept complacency, never settling on staying pretty. All of which show off Foxygen as a band to watch.
5. Folk Rock is Not Country’s Hipster Cousin
Despite what the dust bowl hipsters like The Lumineers may want you to think, folk is not reserved for the upright bass and banjo set. An emotive brand of Americana rock that transcends the “twang” does indeed exist. Ditching the sloppy strumming for a smooth, melodic structure is achievable without becoming un-folky. It may fall into the broadest definition of rock, but the folk off-shoot is alive and well.
The Canadian three piece folk group The Rural Alberta Advantage owes the lion’s share of its sounds to exquisite drum work. The percussion drives what is a hard charging brand of folk. The Rural Alberta Advantage are not shy about driving their points home, unlike their often times wistful counterparts. Bands like these only contribute to the diversity of the rock landscape.
4. Metal Isn’t All Heavy
When your genre coined the phrase “head banging,” the super concussive guitar is sure to rattle the weakest of your musical bones. However, not all metal is as brutal as the toughest in the metal militia. Some of it drones with heavy bass and some is a cluster of thundering doom.
Young Widows is a metal band for the even staunchest of anti-metalheads. The band’s latest album, Easy Pain, is a testament to the cluster of thundering claps method. The Louisville band keeps slugging away with booming bass, intricate guitar, and drubbing drums that fall all over the top of each other. However, it is not an overwhelming type of metal that would make you want to plant your head into the plaster of your living room wall. It’s metal that got a job, adorns a suit, and is asleep by 9:30.
3. Synth Is Not Thy Enemy
Rock is categorized by eras and the delineations between these periods are the styles that are characteristic of the time. Today, the pop rock sound has taken the DeLorean back to the mid-‘80s and picked up a few synthesizers on its trip. The laser keyboards can be interpreted as antithetical to rock, but in small doses, they are an effective accent. They fit the carefree pop sound these bands shoot for. Bands like Los Campesinos do not aim to melt your face off, but rather to loosen up your uptight rock self, even if you won’t freely admit to liking it.
2. Jack White
Jack White is not of this world. He was beamed down from planet Rock And Roll to show us mere mortals how it’s done. With Jimmy Page-esque knack for power riffing, White’s skill set is one for the ages. At the very least, he is now immortalized as a stadium staple; “Seven Nation Army”’s ominous opening bass line serving as the latest crowd chant-along.
Beyond that, White is a student of music history. Picking up traits from country rock of days gone by, White has shown that he is an adaptable artist with an appreciation for the many facets of rock’s story. This reticence towards remaining static strangely enough makes him one of rock’s most dynamic figures.
1. Where There Is Rage, There Will Be Rock
Finally, if there is anything to be mad about, the fuel that stokes rock’s fire will never run out. In that regard, rock is immortal. It may change in presentation, which may rankle the “purists,” but the core tenant will still remain true. No matter how hard they try, rock and roll will never die.