Rock music gets a lot of criticism these days for falling behind hip-hop and pop in the public consciousness. But just because fewer rock bands are crossing over with big pop radio hits doesn’t mean that excellent rock songs aren’t being released. In fact, so much good rock is coming out regularly, that it’s hard to keep up with the continual stream of music. Sure, you could just tune into Uproxx Music and listen to everything that is written about (please, do that), but we’ve rounded up the best guitar-wielding tunes of the last few months that you may have missed.
The Wonder Years – “Pyramids Of Salt”
Philadelphia punks The Wonder Years are serving up promising tastes of their forthcoming album Sister Cities, with the title track and the anthemic, heartbreaking “Pyramids of Salt.” Both songs illustrated massive growth for the band, with the latter embracing more of an indie rock sensibility than anything we have heard previously from the sextet.
Slow Mass – “Blocks”
“Blocks” arrived with the announcement of Slow Mass’s debut full-length, On Watch. The track illustrates the spectrum of all the sounds that the Chicago quartet can muster, from subdued melancholy single notes to abrasive, cathartic explosions of sound. Throughout the track, guitarist Dave Collis and bassist Mercedes Webb trade verses before coming together on the chorus, making for a versatile track that touches all the band’s bases.
Queen Of Jeans – “More To Love”
On their debut album Dig Yourself, Philadelphia’s Queen Of Jeans modernized the sounds of ’60s doo-wop, making it completely their own. The resulting music is both rewarding and challenging, simultaneously familiar and original. “More To Love” opens the record with sweeping harmonies, before the entrance of clean guitars and simple drums that fall beneath an ethereal vocal lead.
Vundabar – “Acetone”
“Acetone” opens Vundabar’s intense new record Smell Smoke. It sets the stage for an album that might not necessarily appear on the surface to deal with devastation, but reveals its dark undertones upon further investigation. It’s a track that shows Vundabar’s ability to fit cleanly into that crevice between genre, and reveals their true potential as one of the most promising acts right now in the indie rock world.
Kississippi – “Cut Yr Teeth”
“Cut Yr Teeth” is an incredibly promising taste of Kississippi’s first steps outside the Philadelphia DIY scene, Zoe Reynolds making the best of a refined full-band studio sound, all to compliment her masterful songwriting. The track started out as an iPhone voice memo demo, and deals with themes of trusting yourself and letting go of a toxic relationship. It’s a song of empowerment and one that sets the bar high for the debut full-length from Kississippi.
Quiet Slang – “Dirty Cigarettes”
Until now, Beach Slang were known for their balls-to-the-wall, raucous rock and roll sensibility. After two EPs and two LPs, however, it seems like James Alex is trying to tone down his act a little with an acoustic project under the name Quiet Slang. They reimagined some of the band’s older material (and a Replacements cover) for the 2017 EP We Were Babies & We Were Dirtbags and now have shared a completely rearranged version of “Dirty Cigarettes,” taken from the first Quiet Slang LP Everything Matters But No One Is Listening. For a song that has opened many a mosh pit, it’s a strikingly beautiful rendition that sees piano and strings taking the place of brash drums and distorted guitars.
Helena Deland – “There Are A Thousand”
A track that’s equal parts folk pop and indie rock, Helena Deland’s “There Are A Thousand” showcases the singer-songwriter’s knack for lyrical wordplay and non-traditional song structures. It features some glorious vocal melodies and harmonies, leaving Deland a name that should definitely remain on the radar or anyone who considers themselves a fan of folk, indie, or even pop rock.
Preoccupations – “Antidote”
The second single from their second LP as Preoccupations, “Antidote” shows the band formerly known as Viet Cong heading in a completely new sonic direction. As it would seem, New Material will see Preoccupations implementing the sounds of post-punk and goth rock, a welcome addition to their catalogue of influences. At just over six minutes, “Antidote” is a track of epic proportions that dwells in the reality that, despite the access to nearly infinite information, humans continue to make mistakes of catastrophic proportions.
Lucy Dacus – “Addictions”
Lucy Dacus’s sophomore LP Historian is already starting to reveal itself as a career-making record, with heavy critical acclaim and even a slot on CBS This Morning during release week. The first half of Historian is anchored by “Addictions,” a track that is built upon a strutting bass line and Dacus’s gorgeous voice, before distorted guitars enter to take the song to new heights.
Pronoun – “Run”
On her first track since 2016’s There’s No One New Around You, Pronoun finds a polished sound that echoes Tegan And Sara’s recent music. “That’s not how you do it/ It’s not like you’re being discrete,” Alyse Vellturo sings over twinkly guitar leads on the standalone single “Run.” The track boasts a massive repeating hook that sees Vellturo’s vocals towering over the rest of the band, one of those choruses that will remain stuck in your head long after you turn the music off.
Turnstile – “Real Thing”
Despite the inherent aggression of hardcore music, Turnstile is a band that manages to write heavier music that can also “make sense” to a listener — like myself — that might usually consider themselves to have a more indie rock sensibility. Perhaps this can be chalked up to their impeccable sense of melody that keeps the tracks from divulging into simply yelling for the sake of catharsis. “Real Thing” is a quick track to open Turnstile’s latest thirteen-song effort that clocks in at just 25 minutes, and it’s a perfect embodiment of why Time & Space is not just another hardcore record.
The Love-Birds – “Hit My Head”
Taking clear influence from everyone from Big Star to Bright Eyes, The Love-Birds create an amalgamation of sounds that somehow manages to feel fresh. With a wonderfully sped-up conclusion, “Hit My Head” is the truly fun first single from the band’s upcoming album In The Lover’s Corner. It features a 12-string guitar. Need I say more?
Jack White – “Over And Over And Over”
Apparently, the latest single for Jack White’s third solo album Boarding House Reach is almost fifteen years old, and almost made it onto records from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and even Jay-Z. “Over And Over And Over” is certainly a throwback track to White’s wilder, more punk- and dirty blues-influenced music of yesteryear. It’s anchored by a frenetic riff that divulges into a spastic guitar (can you even call that a guitar?) solo.
Soccer Mommy – “Your Dog”
Over the last few years, Soccer Mommy built a reputation for herself via her lo-fi Bandcamp releases. “Your Dog” was the first taste of Clean, her debut album for a record label. The record’s title is fitting, because Sophia Allison was able to use the resources of a label to clean up and polish the lo-fi sound, though the intent in its creation and execution still remained the same. Guitars anchor the chorus, adding an extra twang beneath Allison’s smooth vocal melodies.
Stef Chura – “Degrees”
On “Degrees,” Stef Chura teamed up with Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, who played guitar and bass on the 5+ minute track. The track’s long runtime allows Chura to explore both sides of her songwriting style, with solemn, fragile verses complemented by a distorted wall of sound during the chorus. It’s a really awesome track that proves difficult to segment into a specific genre, given its versatility. “Degrees” set for release on Record Store Day as a seven-inch, produced by Toledo.
Hovvdy – “In The Sun”
It’s hard to define, but there is a sense of warmth and comfort that comes with Hovvdy’s music. The same can be said for early (Sandy) Alex G recordings. Perhaps it’s in the recording quality, and the fact that it feels like it was recorded in a bedroom; perhaps it’s the simplicity of these songs. Hovvdy’s “In The Sun,” one of the many singles from their sophomore album Cranberry, perfectly embodies this feeling. The track is beautiful in its subtlety, with fuzzy vocals atop simple plucked chords and a light keyboard line.
Say Sue Me – “B Lover”
Hailing from South Korea, Say Sue Me’s “B Lover” pays tribute to the band’s longtime drummer who is currently recovering from a major fall. It’s a track that seems like it would be perfectly suited to punk clubs and basements, relying on simple chords and quick drums to compliment singer Sumi Choi’s spitting lyrics. A brief bass lead over the top of messy guitars brings the song to a riotous close, making a case for Say Sue Me’s sophomore album We Were Together as one to keep an eye out for when it’s released next month.
Sorority Noise – “Windowwww”
Sorority Noise might be taking an extended break, but YNAAYT, the acoustic counterpart to the band’s brilliant 2017 record You’re Not As _____ As You Think serves as a fitting farewell. The closing track “Windowwww” is a solo home recording that sees frontman Cameron Boucher lightly strumming a nylon string guitar and contemplating his life up to this point. “I’ve never been this happy in my life,” he sings lightly to close the record, and this chapter of Sorority Noise.
Animal Flag – “Why”
The penultimate track on Animal Flag’s Void Ripper is also one of its highlights. Frontman Matthew Politoski’s vocals echo that of Desaparecidos-minded Conor Oberst, nearly shouting on the anthemic chorus, “Now you’re a speck of dust on a floating rock/ You’re the fastest hand on the smallest clock/ You’re a vapor bird with a body cage/ And when you break out, it’ll leave everyone in pain.” It’s a truly stellar track from what’s sure to be a breakout album for Animal Flag.
Pearl Jam – “Can’t Deny Me”
Legendary grunge rockers Pearl Jam surprised fans when they returned from a lengthy recording hiatus with the politically-charged anthem “Can’t Deny Me,” a preview of what’s to come from the band’s as-yet-untitled new album. The track, which features a cowbell-driven percussion line, is a clear shot at the Trump Administration, with Eddie Vedder singing in the chorus that “You may be rich but you can’t deny me.” It sounds like a call to arms, employing Vedder’s signature howl throughout.
Check out many of these songs and several more on this regularly updated Spotify playlist with a Back To The Future-inspired title.