The death of rock was not a natural death. Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. And the real culprit is that kid’s 15-year-old next-door neighbor, probably a friend of his. Maybe even one of the bandmates he’s jamming with. The tragedy is that they seem to have no idea that they just killed their own opportunity — they killed the artists they would have loved. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed, and now it won’t, because it’s that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it.
There’s certainly some truth in there, but I’ve said it before and I’ll sadly have to keep shouting it again: rock music is still great; you just have to look harder to find it. There’s really no such as rock radio anymore, which is kind of Gene’s point, so if you want to hear guitar-based bands, you’re gonna have to search for them. To help you out, here are eight groups that released very good to great rock albums this year (I’m not including anyone that appeared on the 2012 list), some of which you may have heard of, others maybe not. But as long as we’re talking about them, listening to them, going to their concerts, and buying their merchandise, the rock will never die. Who are some of your favorites?
The masters of melodic, riff-based metal have matured over the years (2014’s Once More ‘Round the Sun is very good; 2004’s Leviathan is GREAT), but that hasn’t lessened their intensity.
2. The Black Keys
I’m not the biggest Black Keys fan in the world, but I understand why they’re so popular, and am glad they are. They’re as basic a mainstream act as you’re going to find — guitars, vocals, and drums — but that doesn’t mean they’re not vital; it just means they have to play that much louder to be heard over the deafening nonsense that is the rest of top-40 radio.
3. The Hold Steady
For a decade now, the Hold Steady has been making stream-of-consciousness bar rock that sounds like the drunken ramblings of a poet laureate. When you want to feel smart while pounding your seventh beer of the night, put on Separation Sunday or Boys and Girls in America, and before long, the entire tavern will be fist pumping along to “Chips Ahoy!” with you.
4. St. Vincent
She doesn’t always shred, but when she does, St. Vincent gets more out of her guitar in a single song than most bands do their entire career.
“What did you do on your summer vacation, Timmy?” “Well, I spent a lot of time listening to this doom-metal group from Arkansas, Pallbearer. They just released this album called Foundations of Burden, and now I’m quitting middle school to form my own band inspired by it. We’re called Head Banging at the Wailing Viking Funeral. See ya, teach!”
6. Joyce Manor
Emo isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (that screams infidelities), but Joyce Manor is no Dashboard Confessional. There’s a big difference between whining into a microphone at the coffee shop, and masking your vulnerability with earnestly clever lyrics and by bashing an electric guitar. Joyce Manor is the latter. Recommended for fans of Taking Back Sunday.
7. Speedy Ortiz
If you still spend way too much time listening to Slanted & Enchanted, you’ll love Speedy Ortiz. The crafty Massachusetts-based group, led by Sadie Dupuis, make mix tape-worthy pop rock; the band’s jagged edges hint at something dark and honest beneath the songs’ surfaces, and Dupuis’ candid lyrics are perfectly paired with her melancholy vocals. Their latest EP, Real Hair, is only 13 minutes long, but Speedy Ortiz should be here for a very long time.
8. Cloud Nothings/Ty Segall
F*ck it. I know I said I wasn’t going to include anyone from the 2012 list, but Cloud Nothings and the ridiculously prolific Segall (he puts Ryan Adams to shame) have released two of this year’s best albums in Here and Nowhere Else and Manipulator, and you should put down your copy of Carnival of Souls and listen to them. Also, why do you own Carnival of Souls, weirdo?