These bands keep rock alive with outspoken politics, shredding solos, and swagger.
Rock music has been considered dead for decades. Rock isn’t as popular as it once was, but a vibrant, vital scene keeps it alive. Although rock’n’roll isn’t as popular as it once was, several major festivals still feature rock bands. Here are 15 fresh rock bands keeping rock alive.
These Dubliners started a band in high school and evolved personally and musically together. It Won’t Always Be Like This, their 2021 debut album, exploded with powerful beats and earworm hooks. Inhaler frontman Elijah Hewson’s dad is the singer for another Dublin band (ahem U2).
The Lathums met in school but moved quickly. Their music school teacher in Wigan, England, threw them together for a project. The upstart rock band signed a major record deal after less than a year. The Lathums’ No. 1 UK album How Beautiful Life Can Be features bright tunes, gently chiming guitars, and warm, inviting voices with a tinge of 90s Britpop. Making them a must-watch new rock band.
Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly, was raised by missionary parents in Houston, so he’d already seen a lot before he started recording music. MGK’s work was initially hip-hop, but he admired Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit along with his hip-hop heroes, and he eventually added a rock element to his music. Already an all-star rapper, he turned to hard-charging pop-punk and melodic alt-rock with 2020’s Tickets to My Downfall.
The beabadoobee sound combines 90s shoegaze, twee pop, and 00s indie dream pop with something distinctive and contemporary. Beatrice Laus, born in the Philippines and reared in London, signed with Dirty Hit. Laus began releasing EPs in 2018, but 2020’s Fake It Flowers broke out in the UK thanks to her beautiful, sparkling voice and hazy but enticing tonal tapestries.
Sea Girls formed in London. Despite the name, they’re four buddies since their teens. They began on the London label Almanac Recordings and rapidly gained popularity with Henry Camamile’s big voice and melodic indie-rock drive. Even after signing to a major label for 2020’s UK No. 3 album Open Up Your Head, they kept their indie sensibility while honing their style.
Dorothy is a LA rock band led by Dorothy Martin. Martin’s bluesy voice draws attention, but she’s not the band’s primary draw. 28 Days in the Valley, produced by Linda Perry and released on Jay-Roc Z’s Nation label, mixes Martin’s vocal talents with lacerating riffs and barnstorming beats, bringing 70s hard rock and blues-rock elements to the fore while feeling contemporary and of the day.
Three women from different states formed Meet Me @ The Altar online. They formed a band in 2015, releasing DIY singles and EPs. Their 2017 debut album is both melodious and hard-hitting. Tea Campbell’s guitar and Ada Juarez’s percussion often have a deep metal bite to their tonality, with their astonishing intensity often threatening to send the whole thing flying off a cliff (in a good way).
Ayron Jones’ pounding, soulful style is greatly influenced by Seattle. Jones modeled his sound on Jimi Hendrix and 90s grunge, adding his own alt-rock thunder. “Mercy” from Jones’ 2021 album Child of the State topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart, proving he’s a rock’n’roll force.
Deep Sea Diver draws more inspiration from Death Cab for Cutie than Seattle’s grunge boom. Jessica Dobson has played with The Shins and Beck. 2020 is made up of her husband, drummer Peter Mansen, and guitarist/keyboardist Elliott Jackson. On their album Impossible Weight, they combine aughts indie-rock with a modern alt mood and subtle compositions.
Eva Walker and Cedric Walker have learnt to do more with less in their stripped-down format. Don’t assume White Stripes, though. The Black Tones use a bass, and like Ayron Jones, they draw inspiration from the past and the present. Their 2019 album Cobain & Cornbread hints at their influences, and their no-nonsense rock matches.
If this Brooklyn-based quartet had been around when John Hughes made his great teen flicks, their music would have fit right in. Nation of Language are reminiscent of New Order, The Cure, and Depeche Mode, but for a new generation. Ian Devaney’s sad vocals float above a bubbling tapestry of synths and percussion to exquisite effect.
Thunderpussy is a hard rock band from Seattle whose name matches their music. This power foursome is a throwback with violent riffs and feminist ideas. These four ladies have taken a deep dive into hard music that doesn’t directly court mainstream music consumers, and they’ve been praised for it.
This new LA band makes a case for a ska comeback. This dynamic quartet has cracked Billboard’s Rock and Adult Alternative charts with ska-punk. Their high-wire singer Aimee Interrupter commands the stage with her fierce pipes. If they sound like Rancid, it’s because their mentor and album producer is Tim Armstrong.
This new Birmingham band separates apart from retro-rock ensembles by relying on Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters’ blues-rock sound and adding country-rock components. Broken Witt Rebels’ Danny Core seems like he’s lived many lifetimes, and the band writes fantastic riffs. BWR never loses soul even when they play wailing rock.
Led Zeppelin had howling voices, gut-busting drums, and insane shredding. Greta Van Fleet is a developing blues- and hard-rock band. Three brothers and a friend from Michigan sound like Led Zeppelin at first listen. It’s not easy to channel Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham’s legacy, energy, and aura. They succeed with audacity. The Battle at Garden’s Gate is evidence.