By Steven Keehner
In an age where the pop music scene is dominated by rap and electronic dance music, it is very difficult for fans of rock to find new, fresh-sounding music. It isn’t unusual to hear fans of the genre complaining that music “isn’t as good as it used to be” or that “rock is dead.” This is where I have an issue. Just because rock isn’t being played on pop stations, that doesn’t mean that the genre itself is on the decline; in fact, I’d be one of the first to argue that it’s actually going through its own little renaissance.
The look and sound of rock as many of us have known it is changing. For example, I believe that we are past the era of bigger-than-life rock star personalities such as Keith Richards, Morrissey, and the Gallagher Brothers; we are instead getting musicians who are much more relatable and down to earth. This can be seen with many of the musicians I’m about to name. Much like bands such as The Smiths and Red Hot Chili Peppers, it isn’t unusual anymore to see bands experimenting by mixing genres to create new and fascinating sounds that I’ve never heard before. And to think that I’ve probably spent the majority of my life listening to music, that’s impressive. So without further ado, here are five bands you should listen to right now.
1. Courtney Barnett
If you’re thinking “Isn’t Courtney Barnett one person?” you would be correct, but because she technically plays in a band and because this is ‘Murica, so I can pretty much say or do whatever I want nowadays, I’m going to add her anyway. I have already written about Barnett in the past; I labeled her as one of the potential faces of the genre, and one year later, I’m still convinced that she can reach her full
If you enjoy interesting and fun songwriting, I’d strongly suggest Barnett. Australian born and raised, Barnett’s songwriting style can seem very humorous, yet she can switch the mood of a song into an incredibly serious one within a few lines. She manages to connect many themes that young people can easily relate to. For example, in her song “Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party,” she talks about the struggle that many young people face in wanting to enjoy the outside world, yet wanting to stay within the comfort of their own homes. While her deadpan singing style and her simple lyrics may not be enough on its own for some, her music is still enjoyable at the same time. It can simply be described as bold.
Whether it’s the up-tempo rhythm in “Dead Fox,” or her simple, yet powerful, guitar playing in “Depreston,” Courtney Barnett seems to be able to capture feelings in a bottle and then release them into an incredible song. Following her successful first album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, many are waiting for her to release her second album, myself included. While it’s waiting to be seen what Courtney Barnett does next, all I know for sure is that she is someone you should look into.
Three Songs You Should Listen to Right Now: “Dead Fox,” “Pedestrian At Best,” “Depreston”
Best Album: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Comparison: Kurt Cobain
Allow me to ask you a question: would you want to hear Oasis, The Stone Roses, and Arctic Monkeys all merged into one mega-group? If you said no, then get out. But if you’re cool and you said yes, then look no further than DMA’s.
While the name DMA’s has no actual meaning, the same cannot be said about their music. Formed in 2012 in Sydney, Australia, by Matt Mason, Tommy O'Dell, and Johnny Took, DMA’s have finally managed to bring the “Britpop” sound that dominated the 90’s with bands like Oasis, Blur, The Stone Roses, and The Verve to Australia, and they’re doing it with a bang. They are the ideal stadium rock band; their music is loud, catchy, and, most importantly, they have epic choruses. Although, to say that this band can create only loud music would be wrong, as seen by their most popular song “Delete.” “Delete” is quickly becoming one of my favorite songs ever with its tuneful melody and epic outro.
They are very successful at being able to mix and match melodies and rhythm in order to create epic songs, as seen on their first and only album Hills End. Tommy O’Dell is also a unique and distinct-sounding frontman, which is probably why they have been compared to the legendary British rock band, Oasis. With their song “Play It Out” being featured on the popular FIFA 17 video game, things are only looking up for the guys from Australia.
Three Songs You Should Listen to Right Now: “Play It Out,” “Delete,” “Too Soon”
Best Album: Hills End
3. Two Door Cinema Club
Out of the five bands that are on this list, I’d be willing to bet that Two Door Cinema Club is the most popular band that I’ve listed. Hailing from Northern Ireland, TDCC is easily one of the most established and well-known bands within the indie scene. Much like Courtney Barnett, I’ve written about Two Door Cinema Club before when I reviewed their latest album, Gameshow. Formed in 2007, they are also one of the longer-tenured bands that will be featured on this list.
Featuring members Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday, and Kevin Baird, their career kicked off with a bang with their first album, Tourist History. This quickly saw the band become one of the largest and most popular acts in Ireland and the United Kingdom (yes, there is a huge difference). Following this, they released their second album, Beacon, which ended up as number one in Ireland, and it rose to number two in the UK.
If I had to pick one band to showcase the indie rock sound, it would most likely be these guys. Although the band carries a consistent sound that can help one identify them, what makes TDCC so special is their ability to mix and match by using techniques used in EDM, such as heavy bass and synthesizers. They also have a unique look, which helps add to the already interesting “mystique” around the band. They are fun to listen to considering their imaginative and engaging sound. This has caused the band to be so popular amongst so many. Despite their third and latest album, Gameshow, not living up to the expectations of the earlier two, Two Door Cinema Club is still a fantastic band that I would strongly recommend.
Three Songs You Should Listen to Right Now: “Something Good Can Work,” ”Sun,” “This Is The Life”
Best Album: Tourist History
Staying on the island of Ireland, our next band takes us south to the Republic of Ireland, where Kodaline is quickly making waves amongst the indie scene.
Kodaline takes all the good things about folk and rock and combines them to make something special. They were originally known as 21 Demands from 2005 to 2011, but in 2011 they changed their name to Kodaline, which is what they continue to be known as today. Formed in Swords, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, they first featured Steve Garrigan, Vinny May, Jr., and Mark Prendergast. Friend and current bassist for the band, Jason Boland, wouldn’t join until 2012, completing the current lineup that they have now.
The music made by Kodaline can simply be described as heartwarming. With messages that relate to powerful themes such as love, loss, and life, and combined with lead singer Steve Garriagan’s amazing vocals and moving lyrics, it makes for one hell of a band.
Kodaline is a great example of “less is more,” with some songs featuring only Garrigan and an acoustic guitar; sometimes that is all that is needed to produce a great song.
With the band currently working on their third album, one can only speculate if this will be the album to push the band into international stardom. With their songs featured in a variety of movies and TV shows, including the very popular movie The Fault in Our Stars, only time will tell.
Three Songs You Should Listen to Right Now: “All I Want,” “One Day,” “The Answer”
Best Album: In a Perfect World
5. Saint Motel
Very few bands are truly able to create their own distinct, fun sound that makes them stand out; Saint Motel is one of those bands. Formed in Los Angeles in 2007, their lineup features A/J Jackson, Aaron Sharp, Greg Erwin, and Dak Lerdamornpong. Saint Motel manages to successfully create music that can have you dancing at one moment, then getting worked up over something the next; they are that powerful. The best example of this is their song “Daydream, Wetdream, Nightmare,” which, in my opinion, is what The Beatles song “A Day in the Life” would sound like if it was written in this decade. The song goes from hard rock, to dance music, to an epic transition back to a much softer form of rock. As mentioned before, the band is simply fun to listen to, and with their music described from "dream pop" to "indie prog,” you never necessarily know what you are going to get, but you’ll most likely end up enjoying it. I can personally say that their first album, Voyeur, is one of the finest combination of sounds that I’ve ever heard; it’s an almost perfect album for me.
If you’re also a fan of innovative music videos, then I would strongly point you toward this group. With the group’s continued rise to the top, and a recent album release in saintmotelivision, it’s very exciting to see the growth of an American band in an age of the top American musicians playing anything but rock.
Three Songs You Should Listen to Right Now: “Daydream, Wetdream, Nightmare,” “Cold Cold Man,” “My Type”
Best Album: Voyeur
Comparison: Arctic Monkeys
I believe we are in a Golden Age of Indie Rock, there are so many great bands and so much great music that is produced constantly. There were so many bands that I couldn’t put on this list such as: The Lumineers, British India, Violent Soho, The Kooks, The Shins. Catfish and the Bottlemen, Portugal, The Man, Young the Giant, and so many more! Rock was never intended to be a pop genre; it’s supposed to be unique from the rest, and these bands are perfect examples of this.