Is rock music even a thing anymore?
August 26, 2016 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Are there recent rock albums or bands that are of some "universal" or broad interest to a large number of people between the ages of, say, 16 and 24? Or have r&b, rap, and other genres totally replaced rock music?


My friend recently raised this question. He said that he was unaware of current rock albums that might be considered either new or distinct in some universal way by young people who pay attention to rock music.

He's in his 40s, and he used some of the following examples in roughly chronological order:

My Bloody Valentine

"In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel

"69 Love Songs" by Magnetic Fields

"Kid A" by Radiohead

The Arcade Fire (this was the last band he could think of that had this impact in his assessment)

Some of those albums actually did new things while some repackaged fairly familiar things, so this is not about being groundbreaking. And it's not about being universally beloved: he himself didn't particularly like the Arcade Fire, and I didn't care for that band or "Kid A," but we both recognized those as albums we felt we had to hear, and which somehow changed the landscape in their moment.


1. He does not claim that great rock music is not being made right now, but was skeptical that either critically acclaimed or popular rock albums matter to younger people in 2016.

2. Obviously there is some gray area here: his list includes some albums that only sold in the hundreds of thousands when they came out, but explicitly does not include "Nevermind" by Nirvana, which we agreed seemed to make more of an impact on what record labels would fund rather than how people who liked punk-ish music thought about punk-ish music.

3. He looked at the charts! He heard about six songs he judged to be in the rock genre, and was skeptical that any of them matter to young people who follow rock music per se.

4. He is definitely aware of all the cool things that are happening in rap, r&b, and other genres, and of the underground/independent music scene in the city where we live. But he's trying to find the Kid A for the current generation, if that thing could be said to exist.
posted by kensington314 to Media & Arts (56 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
It really depends on the young person.

But the fragmentation caused by the internet and the near-death of the "MTV, the radio and the major labels push four bands at a time down your throat" model means there aren't a lot of new, universally-known "stadium rock" acts coming up. Most of the rock bands still playing large venues started in the earlier era, and are now kind of middle-of-road "elder statesman" bands like U2, Coldplay and Radiohead that probably appeal more to the parents of the kids you mentioned than the kids themselves.

Rap/hip-hop is probably a little immune to this, due to a tradition of street level marketing and artists finding and promoting new artists themselves, rather than depending on a "suit"-controlled major label.

Also, things have broadened a little from just "rock." Most of the interesting new music incorporates a lot more than just four white dudes with drums, bass, and guitar. The bands still clinging to that model tend to be self-consciously retro, usually aping some combination of the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and/or Iggy and the Stooges to very diminished effect (hi, Black Keys!)

For what it's worth, "Modern Vampires of the City" by Vampire Weekend made a big impact with a lot of people in the last few years. Whether it's "rock" is debatable.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:17 PM on August 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

My local rock and metal station seems to have plenty of younger listeners. But then there are also services like Pandora and Spotify, which encourage music discovery by allowing the listener to choose pre-set "stations" and hear musicians similar to the ones they already know.

As a rock-enjoying person in my 40s as well, I would caution this dude against thinking that he is the arbiter of cool and that just because he hasn't heard any rock lately that knocks his socks off, that must mean rock sucks now and nobody cares anymore. He's not a young person, so how would he know what young people listen to? Maybe it would make sense to ask them. Otherwise it just sounds like "kids these days!"

Btw, there was an article a while back about how one's musical taste tends to stop evolving in any significant way in adulthood. Basically, whatever you liked during your coming-of-age years is probably going to be the kind of music you will like the rest of your life, and there isn't a lot of branching out in one's musical taste (anecdotally, I would leave hardcore music lovers out of that group, because they still seem to love exploring all kinds of music just for the principle of it). I wish I could find a link but have not succeeded.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:22 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: autumnheart, I need to clarify!

The tone of our conversation was definitely not "kids these days," and we certainly acknowledged that good, even great, rock music is being made right now, alongside a lot of great and interesting music in other genres. He does an admirable job trying to discover new things, and is super down to earth and not a self-appointed arbiter of cool. He just remembers a lot of albums that mattered to a lot of rock fans when they came out, and the moments where a lot of those peoples' interests intersected for a moment, so it's interesting to know whether that still exists.

It's just that neither of us know very many people younger than, say, 30 at this point. So we were genuinely curious what they are into.
posted by kensington314 at 5:28 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I mean, people went absolutely NUTS for the new Radiohead record, many of them in that demographic. And for good reason; that album rules.

But yeah, I think there's still a ton of rock bands that have huge appeal for that group of kids. I guess it depends on how you want to define "broad" and "rock" though. Some that I think would fit that off the top of my head:

The 1975
Carseat Headrest
War on Drugs
Chvrches (do they count as rock?)
The Black Keys
Arctic Monkeys
The National

I mean there's a ton. I think the answer is: yes.

But like, Kid A was an amazing album because it wasn't really a rock album. There's tons of bands that are pushing boundaries of genre in the same way and lots of the kids are down with it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think it is impossible to identify any bands as only rock now because the categories we thought of as distinct genres up to the 90's are no longer distinct at all. Frankly, I have a hard time applying the word "rock" to Arcade Fire without a lot of caveats. Everything has been (gloriously!) cross-pollinating for some time now.

So while I'm not a huge fan of 21 Pilots, I'd be curious if they meet some of these criteria in terms of producing a chart-topping album that loads of kids bought (Blurryface was HUGE) and easily selling out multi-night events at stadiums across the country.

Also, yeah, this: As a rock-enjoying person in my 40s as well, I would caution this dude against thinking that he is the arbiter of cool and that just because he hasn't heard any rock lately that knocks his socks off, that must mean rock sucks now and nobody cares anymore. He's not a young person, so how would he know what young people listen to? Maybe it would make sense to ask them. Otherwise it just sounds like "kids these days!"
posted by juliplease at 5:30 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would deny the premise of the question. In what sense are the Magnetic Fields, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Radiohead 'rock'? I feel like I would only use the term 'rock' to refer to music from pre-1990 (maybe the Smashing Pumpkins is the last pure 'rock' band)?
posted by crazy with stars at 5:31 PM on August 26, 2016 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: crazy with stars -

I am kind of with you on this - I labored over this post for too much time because I was having a hard time capturing his sentiment properly.

I think your answer kind of points to the question, though! Magnetic Fields and Neutral Milk Hotel both wrote a lot of songs in the basic 50s and 60s pop music formats that eventually were incorporated into a lot of rock music. (Neutral Milk Hotel might as well have been playing "Angel Baby" with fuzzed out guitars!) But they did it in a way that seemed new to people in that moment and worth paying attention to if you cared. Radiohead, similarly, started out as a fairly conventional rock band and by "Kid A" were incorporating totally different things in a way that turned heads.

I get that genre is inherently and unnecessarily limiting though.
posted by kensington314 at 5:40 PM on August 26, 2016

Best answer: I hear the objection, but I'm surprised The Black Keys isn't everyone's answer. At least a few years ago, they were fucking everywhere.
posted by booooooze at 5:41 PM on August 26, 2016 [17 favorites]

Some thoughts:

There's certainly a lot of music that isn't pop, r&b, or rap that is popular, but the question is whether it's "rock." There are so many different styles that could be called "rock," but that straddles genre boundaries.

"Indie" music is a huge deal, but its nature means it doesn't get the same kind of promotion, and fragmentation means that none of it will get the kind of market share as pop.

Bu also, something about internet listening: Songs don't expire from the popular consciousness the same way they used to. Like, kids still listen to The White Stripes; on Pandora or Spotify or whatever it doesn't matter if a song is ten years old as long as it still sounds fresh. Songs don't fall into that black hole between "current" and "classic" as much.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:42 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know that I'd class them as rock (though like crazy with stars, I'm not sure I'd put NMH or Radiohead there either), but I saw The Wombats play a show a few weeks back, and there were definitely young people there for whom that music really mattered. (I was possibly the oldest person at the show that wasn't a parent chaperoning teenagers and pre-teens, in fact.)
posted by okayokayigive at 5:44 PM on August 26, 2016

I also have a problem with the premise of the question. You guys came up with a list of albums that weren't necessarily popular or sold well but you felt were transformative for a lot of young people? That seems self-contradictory. It sounds like you're extrapolating your own point of view out to be universal when there's no evidence to back that up. I don't even agree that any of the bands you list were transformative (I've heard of Neutral Milk Hotel but I'll be damned if I ever actually heard it anywhere), but Nirvana definitely was in terms of listeners' taste.
posted by ejs at 5:45 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: My Morning Jacket?
posted by sallybrown at 5:47 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah I'll be another one who questions the premise. I would be surprised if Neutral Milk Hotel, for instance, have sold that many records, even now. So "broad" interest doesn't seem like measure you are talking about.

But in general, "guitar" and "rock" is not so much the thing for young people any more, it's true. Even among the young people who consider themselves to be music cognoscenti. Go to Coachella sometime. Most of the young people are to be found at the EDM (electronic dance music) tents. Many are to be found at the hip hop artists. Others go to Grimes, etc., which are a mix of various pop and electronic and art styles. Guitars just aren't the thing for the mainstream of young music listeners.
posted by sheldman at 5:51 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think today's term for this would just all fall under "Alternative" now.

I'm near the "kids these days" demo (26) but I don't listen to tons of radio-music. I do think that rock/rockish/alternative/rock pop is still a thing. And I do agree that I wouldn't list NMH or Arcade Fire as rock. I'd list them as alt or indie.

That said: Possibly similar to what you're premise includes I'd say twenty one pilots, Tame Impala, Imagine Dragons, Black Keys, and Mumford and Sons are popular and have their own spins on the rock/alt genre. I'm a huge fan of Of Monsters and Men and feel that they're really doing amazing and interesting things in the alternative genre.

But I'm a bit confused by your premise. Because if you're saying that those things change the landscape in some way - then wouldn't today's music in that same category change music in an entirely different way? It can't change it in the same way if it's different, correct? (Not snarky, really just trying to understand what you mean.) As you say, things were important to him and intersected a moment. I would argue that the audience, moment, and intersections are different now. Hence why I think lots of the new alternative scene is crossing with hip/hop and indie and electronica which are popular genres now.

For reference I grew up with Pink Floyd, Nirvana, U2, REM, and Talking Heads. Now some of my faves include (in addition to those) Of Monsters and Men, Neutral Milk Hotel, Bright Eyes, Voxtrot, Lana Del Ray, MGMT, etc. Many of those I would just list as Alternative.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:58 PM on August 26, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I loved Neutral Milk Hotel (and all the Elephant 6 bands) when they appeared, but nobody who loved them would have classed them as rock either. They were Indy, if they were anything at all. And Elephant 6 artists were being inspired by 60s pop music, not rock and roll.

And Magnetic Fields were *never* classed as rock and I'm honestly a little surprised to see them in your list as well. Again, I saw them play right around the time 69 Love songs came out and I promise you, it had nothing at all to do with classic rock and roll.

Do you mean do we have formative bands with guitars anymore?
posted by frumiousb at 5:59 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I gotta say that while you may not mean for it sound like "kids these days," it's kinda hard to escape that tone with a question like this. I spend all day with teens and, of course, there are popular mainstream rock albums like the ones your friend likes. To assume otherwise is a sign that you've gotten old and out of touch. I say this as someone who is her 30s who has gotten old and out of touch, and is reminded of this every day, like when I hear Pearl Jam played on the 50s/60s rock station of my youth. I cannot tell you exactly what the current popular rock albums are but, were you to ask a group of teens outside of Metafilter, they could surely tell you.

Teens also listen to a lot of classic rock from the 70s and 80s, and grunge music is SO popular right now with them, too. And, for a reason I will never understand, Dave Matthews Band is also coming back. (Good people just so not my style, then or now!) Many of the teens I work with were born between 1999-2003 so it all all before their time. However, listening to your parents' music is considered cool these days; being openly close to your parents' and liking their stuff and style is totally acceptable and not questioned unlike when I was growing up.

Because there is so much free music online, kids have so much to choose from! Most teens I know listen to multiple styles of music, and so many teens enjoy dancing since they can learn them online. (Remember Gangnam style?!) Speaking of K-pop, it's also much easier for teens to access pop music from around the world beyond English-only groups.

And, finally, for what it's worth: I personally consider bands like Radiohead and Neutral Milk Hotel to be too "mainstream" and commercial for me. They're fine bands, of course, but the challenge of being a music snob is that there will always be someone who is snobbier, has more obscure tastes, etc. (I try so hard to remember this when I have my moments of music snobbery!) I'm so glad that things have opened up a bit these days and kids of all musical styles and subcultures can gleefully run to the dance floor together when a favorite song comes on. Although, to prove your point, I gotta admit that nothing gets everyone going quite as much as a 90s hit, be it alternative rock, rap, hiphop or beyond!
posted by smorgasbord at 6:01 PM on August 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Also I think the Teens React videos may give you insight into this.
Here's the one for twenty one pilots where they discuss how they feel about the group and how passionate they are and how they feel the group is changing music. College kids react to 1975. There's lots of people reacting to current music on that channel in the age demo you're looking for (teens and college kids) and show their genuine reactions to the bands/groups.
posted by Crystalinne at 6:02 PM on August 26, 2016

Response by poster: frumiousb and crystalline:

I am afraid if I try to refine the question any further I will just further annoy people!

But yes, I guess to frumiousb's point, it's about recent bands that play guitar music, probably with a rhythm section, that are formative for a large number of people under age 25.

I may have overthought my question in stating it.
posted by kensington314 at 6:05 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco would seem to qualify.
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Do you mean do we have formative bands with guitars anymore?

I think that's a better way to reframe the question, because genre (especially in the US) is still tied to commercial radio and it's not as defining an influence any more. It's also a difficult comparison because 90s bands sold more records

I go to plenty of shows where I'm a decade older than the band and maybe 15-20 years older than most of the audience, and they're clearly into them. (On the scale of NMH and MBV: Wye Oak, Tame Impala, Speedy Ortiz.)

And if you want something more mainstream and rocky as a reference point, then HAIM sell out shows in a snap, wig out on stage, and are clearly beloved and intensely followed.

That there are more women in these bands is, I think, significant to this question -- because [indie-]rock fandom and the critical discourse around rock's influence has tended to be male-dominated -- and their presence is a feature, not a bug.
posted by holgate at 6:15 PM on August 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

It is hard, having deep and non-populist beliefs about music. (I have them!) I mean, I bet more people have strong positive feelings about Thirty Seconds to Mars (I have never listened to them) than Neutral Milk or even Arcade Fire. Important? Depends on who you're talking to.
posted by sheldman at 6:15 PM on August 26, 2016

Best answer: I read this as asking: has there been a rock or rock-ish (non-rap/non-R&B/non-electronic music) album release by a fairly new band that was awaited and/or heralded with the intensity and/or popularity as the examples given?

I was trying to think of something in or close to the rock genre that was greeted the way BEYONCE was, or waited for the way Frank Ocean's newest album was.

I don't really think there has been.
posted by sallybrown at 6:22 PM on August 26, 2016 [9 favorites]

i live around the corner from my town's primary all-ages rock venue. I always look at the marquee in passing and think "damn, I have no idea who any of those bands are." Judging from the sounds radiating out, it's definitely rock or at least rock-adjacent most of the time. And teenagers line up around the freaking block, wearing band t-shirts and silly makeup and artfully revealing shocking amounts of skin. So at least some kids do still care about music with loud guitars.
posted by Erroneous at 6:34 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wait, you think Kid A is ROCK music?! Ok hold on let me recalibrate.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:43 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: saltysalticid

point taken
posted by kensington314 at 6:49 PM on August 26, 2016

Best answer: There are a ton of articles about "rockism." Read your source of choice.

The current leaders of rock music are Beach Slang and Japandroids (if the new album coming out shortly is good).

Maybe also try some girl groups like Bleached.
posted by littlewater at 7:04 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another measuring yardstick - any rockish album as long-awaited (and that more than delivered) as D'Angelo's Black Messiah? Any rockish album that dominated the cultural conversation like To Pimp a Butterfly?

Still got nada. Closest I can think of is Sturgill Simpson's first album, which became required listening for people with an interest in quality "real" country music.
posted by sallybrown at 7:16 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Mea culpa, you guys. I wrote an overthought post and if I sound unbearably rockist, or if my friend does, maybe chalk it up to a case of bad writing rather than actual horrid elitism on our part.

I should've phrased the question along the lines of how frumiousb and sallybrown have done. That's more to the point.
posted by kensington314 at 7:21 PM on August 26, 2016

I have 3 kids in your age bracket. My two boys listen to country. A lot of the new country sounds like the rock of my youth.
posted by AugustWest at 7:31 PM on August 26, 2016

I notice that there seems to be more crossover between "pop" and "alt-rock" radio playlists than there was 10-15 years ago. Twenty One Pilots, for example, enjoy popularity on both, as do Bastille and The Strumbellas (among many other examples). Especially with the popularity of streaming, "genre" seems more like a suggestion than the category it was in the past.

(You could argue that popular music has been going in this direction for decades, with so many folk, country, and world-influenced "crossover" hits.)
posted by Seeking Direction at 7:32 PM on August 26, 2016

Rockish albums simply don't have the "grand reveal" total-media-event-experience release strategy of a Beyoncé or Frank Ocean. It's much more fragmented: typically 1-3 "singles" (digital, not physical) ahead of the album, a couple of videos, a push for preorders, limited edition vinyl, maybe a couple of recorded live sets or a Spotify session, etc. That's mostly because it's a struggle for anyone to sell albums beyond the top top tier, and the artists who've mastered the grand reveal tend to be more in the R&B or rap domain. (Not, um, U2 invading your Apple device.)
posted by holgate at 7:36 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Is he from the UK? "Rock" has a totally different popular meaning there and people are far more concerned with defining music than in the US where it's all, like, college radio or something. I'm thinking he is so I'm not going to get too hung up on that. As far as bands that have a more traditional song structure and really hit a lot of people: Milky Chance?
posted by fshgrl at 8:28 PM on August 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Every five years a new band comes along to save rock and roll. The Pixies, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, The Hold Steady. I am admittedly old and out of touch because, kids, but in the last couple years we've had Japandroids and Thee Oh Sees, both of whom use similar orchestration and song structure yet somehow create something completely new and moving with the same six strings and three chords.

Rock and roll will never die, man.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:29 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

I was a freshman in college when Kid A came out. I was already a Radiohead fan since OK Computer, but honestly, NOBODY in my high school social circle really cared about it. It may have been influential to other bands (obviously it was), and it may have been formative, but I felt like I was the only kid in a school of 800 students who even liked it. In my recollection everybody else was either listening to top 40, country, rap, or "alternative" (which at the time basically meant Blink-182 and Foo Fighters).

NMH's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea came out in 1998, when I was in 11th grade. I never heard it. I personally had no idea NMH was even a thing until, like 2008. And I have always had voracious musical interests so it wasn't for lack of interest. It just wasn't nearly as broadly appealing or well-known as our collective imaginations now make it out to be.

Since you mentioned that frumiousb's answer get's close to the point of your ask, I'm gonna use it as a re-phrase:

"do we have formative bands with guitars anymore?"

HAIM is the most recent example of a YES answer to this question. I think this snippet from a 2013 Guardian article about "The best pop of 2013" is illustrative:

Haim might have been the darlings of the press this year but that was because they were a terrific proposition, using the vector of harmonies to splice R&B with 70s soft rock. They laid waste, too, to a herd of ghastly old hobby horses about guitar bands being unmarketable and record sales only being tied to women's state of undress.

Alabama Shakes. Not that this totally matters, but they took home 2016 Grammy awards for Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, AND Best Alternative Music Album. Oh yeah they also won Best Rock Performance and Best New Artist in 2013. And they are unequivocally blues-rock. Absolutely drowning in guitars.

You may also find this Reddit thread in r/Music interesting. It's titled "What do 'cool' high school kids listen to now?". It's funny to me how similar that conversation is to conversations I had when I was of a similar age (I'm 34), especially the comments about this group of kids listens to this type of music, and then this other weird group listens to this other type...

The Black Keys is mentioned in that Reddit thread, and honestly, they were pretty ubiquitous for a while. El Camino came out in 2012 and was everywhere (with good reason, it's a great record).

Radiohead is seemingly unkillable.

I remember seeing a lot of chatter about Mac DeMarco in the past couple years.

Tame Impala for sure as well.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:06 PM on August 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

Rock has moved away from the kind of hype that pop needs to sell itself to idiots. The National will tour NBA and NHL arenas full of 20 year olds behind their next album, despite TMZ never caring about Matt Berninger's baby mama drama or old politicians and morning-show anchors not tweeting about them in an effort to seem cool.
posted by MattD at 9:21 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

The National will tour NBA and NHL arenas full of 20 year olds behind their next album, despite TMZ never caring about Matt Berninger's baby mama drama or old politicians and morning-show anchors not tweeting about them in an effort to seem cool.

I wasn't aware of that, but it is interesting because that was common when I was a teen. There were bands that were never on the radio, no hit singles, never mentioned in the press, yet played arenas.
posted by bongo_x at 10:16 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Lumineers definitely sell out their shows
posted by gt2 at 10:32 PM on August 26, 2016

Also, a while back, people were all over The Killers
posted by gt2 at 10:33 PM on August 26, 2016

Royal Blood hit the ground running with Out of the Black (5m views) and then later rode a second (larger?) wave of popularity with Figure it Out (11m views) so ... I dunno. I'd say they're popular. Per Jimmy Page, if you trust his opinion: "Their album has taken the genre up a serious few notches. It's so refreshing to hear, because they play with the spirit of the things that have preceded them, but you can hear they're going to take rock into a new realm – if they're not already doing that. It's music of tremendous quality."

Okay so they're not like Black Keys level of popular but it's another example of a brand new band making some form of rock and getting accolades for it.
posted by komara at 10:37 PM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah rock just doesn't have the cultural dominance it once did. But also the monoculture ain't what it used to be. If you look for rock, you'll find it.

I'm more into electronic, experimental, and pop stuff, but here are some "rock" bands that released stuff I liked recently in the last year or so:

Tortoise, Into It Over It, The Hotelier, The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Sound of Ceres, Twin Peaks, Car Seat Headrest, Zeal & Ardor, Deafheaven, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Radiohead, Mike Adams at his Honest Weight, Savages, Whitney, PJ Harvey, Preoccupations, Japanese Breakfast, Sufjan Stevens, Beach House, Waxahatchee, Mount Eerie, Helen, Tamaryn, Father John Misty, Tricot, Big Brave, Bully, Zelionople, Tame Impala, Liturgy, Chastity Belt, No Joy, Mac Demarco, Locrian, Torres

The best live rock shows I've been to recently have all been metal and emo, both scenes are vibrant right now.
posted by naju at 1:26 AM on August 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Tumblr is FULL of Panic! At The Disco memes, and general affection for mid-2000s emo overall.

Also (and this may be a function of the kinds of subcultures I'm in) there seems to be way more of an appreciation for artists that come from marginalized backgrounds. Ever since Laura-Jane Grace came out as trans, Against Me! has become a very well-respected name. Poly Styrene gets brought up when people talk about riot grrrl - and actually riot grrrl is having a mild revival. Sleater-Kinney, Tegan and Grace, Kathleen Hanna...all of that having the kind of impact you're talking about. (Ani Difranco used to be one of these too and then there was that whole retreat-in-a-plantation mess and she's been dropped like a hot potato).
posted by divabat at 1:45 AM on August 27, 2016

There is a huge buzz among my younger friends when Mumford and Sons release an album or EP. I think that's the only "rock" "album" I remember them being excited about maybe ever--as people for whom mp3s have always been a thing.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:48 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Came in to say The Black Keys, will also throw in Foo Fighters. I can't go a week without hearing them somewhere.
posted by Fig at 5:20 AM on August 27, 2016

My 20-something son is all over Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco, still loves Panic, etc., but he also regularly shares new stuff with me that he finds on random places. He also is deep into the Beatles right now. And he adores Queen and many other classic bands/artists I exposed him to as a kid (I did my job well.) He is not an indie snob by any means, but he's someone who would potentially reject out of hand any music that he perceived as being directed to him as part of some Big Musical Event.

Technology and social media have changed the landscape so much that I think the premise of your question is (sadly?) irrelevant. I understand the question, and I think I would also like an answer, but I just don't think the "music industry" exists in a recognizable way anymore. What we have now, whatever it's called, by its very nature precludes the thing you're asking about.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:17 AM on August 27, 2016

Foo Fighters are still rock. Good point, Fig. But who else is there?

I heard G&R defined as pop the other day. That floored me. Back in the day, to me, G&R was a rock band, and only rock- not Hard Rock, not Metal- just Rock. Now, I'm not sure what they are, but I'm just using them as an example of a time (not that long ago) when the lines were much easier to see.

Foo Fighters are rock, have always been rock, and they are still rocking in the purest form of that genre. And from what I can see, they are still relevant, still pretty universally accepted as standard-bearers. Hell, my son has a Foo sticker on his truck. That's enough for me to believe that they are not moving into the past or to nostalgia status (not that I can see, at least).

IMO, Foo-type rock is not the same as, say, Black Keys-type rock, or Panic-type rock or even Radiohead-type. So if you are asking "people who pay attention to rock music," I think even that is sort of doomed, because honestly, sitting here thinking about it, I cannot come up with a single entity that matches what I perceive as the "rock-ness" of Foo Fighters, and allows me to feel any degree of confidence that it's even legit to assume that "rock" as a singular descriptor is even worth applying anymore.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:28 AM on August 27, 2016

Best answer: Yeah, I do think the albums you've selected suggest you're not talking about the reception of mainstream rock at all, but more transformations within what we might (for convenience's sake) call (male) "hipster" identity. The Pitchfork demographic, essentially. Now, with a couple of exceptions, the albums you've cited were never significant commercially, but they were important touchstones for signalling taste and sophistication within a particular cultural milieu. In the past 10 years or so, however, signalling one's hipster identity through the conspicuous consumption of serious or canonical indie rock only has come to seem rather gauche. Social capital in those circles is now gained through the consumption of a generically diverse playlist. Freddie Deboer wrote about this a little while back, when he noted that everyone still rags on hipsters as rockist, Arcade Fire-listening diehards when they're much more likely to be into Earl Sweatshirt now instead. Hell, look at what Pitchfork itself is reviewing these days for another example in this shift in (visible) consumption habits. Which isn't to say that rock isn't still an important part of that milieu, it's just being listened to alongside a bunch of other stuff.

But outside that (always commercially rather tiny) milieu there's a hell of a lot more going on. Like naju, I'm surprised you didn't mention metal, or country, and I notice there's a bunch of conservative hard rock that commands mass audiences outside hipster circles and/or within various regional markets (Black Stone Cherry, Bring Me the Horizon, Dead Letter Circus, e.g.) that appears to be outside this cultural frame as well.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:54 AM on August 27, 2016 [10 favorites]

I hate them, but Fallout Boy still draws young crowds and gets mainstream radio play. That idiotic Centuries song was everywhere when it was released. My friend goes to their concerts and says the audience is mostly teen to mid twenties.
posted by codacorolla at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2016

When I go to events connected with the furry fandom, I end up hanging out with a lot of 20-somethings. They all seem to be simply OBSESSED with 80s culture. Clothes, music, video games, etc. There is a lot of 80s rock and pop floating around in their lives, often intermingled with current music in a way that is both jarring and encouraging to an oldster like me.

I have never had any conversations with any of them about current rock acts they might be listening to. They're all queuing up 80s Prince or Janet Jackson or whatever. I sit here and think hard about what young, current rock acts they might be listening to that I've experienced in their presence from their music sources, but can't come up with any.

Meanwhile, Pearl Jam just sold out 3 nights at Wrigley Field. I wonder what the demographic for those crowds was. And I'm going to see Duran Duran next weekend. I wonder what the crowd for that show will be like.
posted by hippybear at 9:28 AM on August 27, 2016

Also, the Avett Brothers seem to be hugely popular with the younglings. But are they considered rock?
posted by hippybear at 9:30 AM on August 27, 2016

Best answer: I don't think your question is worded badly. I certainly didn't get a judgey impression from it, anyway.

Not long ago, a local music venue had to reduce their bass levels because of local noise ordinances, and I was talking to a guy in his late 20s, I think, who is into EDM (and an up and coming musician whose name I will be awkwardly dropping into all my conversations the near future), and he said, "I guess they're just going to have rock bands there now." Italics are insufficient for conveying the sheer contempt dripping from rock bands. Same guy, though, even more recently, revealed a pretty intimate knowledge of metal genres.

There does seem to be a pretty common sentiment that rock music is boring music for old people. But if you think back anywhere from the 70s on, that's always been there. The popularity and market share for traditional style rock music has been waxing and waning for a long time, but it's always had some audience. Remember when Guns n Roses released their first album and everyone was talking about the return of rock music? That was 1987. And there's been a pretty steady stream of that. I think Lenny Kravitz was supposed to be the savior of rock once, too. If there were some way to search for those weird rock songs where the theme is just, "I enjoy the rock music," you could probably track some of those trends via the defensive tone of rock bands. The only one off the top of my head is Old Time Rock and Roll, but I know there have been others, and I think they've been pretty spread out.

So what I'm getting at is that I think rock is still a thing, but it's got a smaller market share than it did back when mainstream music trends were limited by what you heard on the radio. Classic style rock music still exists and still has a fanbase, and not just a legacy one, but the rock music diaspora shares the spotlight with the hip hop diaspora now, in ways it really didn't in the 70s or even the 80s.

If there is a Kid A right now, in the sense of a truly influential rock band (although Radiohead isn't one I'd automatically consider that) that is changing the way young people listen to music wholesale, I don't know what it is, but it's just not a forefront thing right this minute, and I think that music audiences are a lot more fragmented now than they have been in the past, just because even casual listeners aren't limited to what they can hear on the radio.

But I reckon in the next few years, something will come along. Or, even more likely, several years after the fact, people will start recognizing the influence that something had. It happens that way a lot, too.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:22 AM on August 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Without devolving into a pointless semantic discussion of rock vs subgenres of rock vs folk vs Americana, the Lumineers new album was highly anticipated, and the Spotify listens are huge for that genre. If we're talking popularity, vs. impact, I think that qualifies. Obviously, they're bringing old stuff back, not new stuff forward.

That being said, few (none?) of the Spotify top 50 are rock music. Several of them are Justin Bieber, which...the kids these days.
posted by cnc at 10:24 AM on August 27, 2016

Best answer: I would say St. Vincent fits this rock-weirdo bill pretty well and am pretty sure her next album will be highly anticipated whenever rumours of any new one start formulating.
posted by thebots at 12:18 PM on August 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I talk mostly to elementary school up through the lower end of your age group. There was more pop and rap/hip-hop stuff, but of the guitar-heavy bands that I would class as rock, by far the most popular was Imagine Dragons. I don't know how influential artistically that they are.
posted by clerestory at 6:07 PM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

The National will tour NBA and NHL arenas full of 20 year olds behind their next album, despite TMZ never caring about Matt Berninger's baby mama drama or old politicians and morning-show anchors not tweeting about them in an effort to seem cool.

I have seen The National play live several times, including once in an arena, and....they can play NBA and NHL arenas, yes. Those arenas are not full of 20-year-olds. In my (admittedly unscientific) observation, The National's fan base is, on average, around 30. They certainly do have some younger fans, but I think in general The National appeals to a demographic that is somewhat older than what the OP has in mind. Many of their fans seem to be people who were fanatical about bands like Radiohead and Wilco when they were in college 10-15 years ago, and are now in their late 20s and 30s.

I do think rock is, in general, less popular than it used to be and is kind of "old people music." (I could be entirely wrong about this, FWIW.) But:

-This isn't totally new. Pop has been trending away from traditional, guitar-based rock for decades (not to mention genre-busting stuff like Kid A). Part of the reason why 2000s hipsters were so "rockist" is because they saw themselves as opposed to the mainstream, which was even then decidedly focused on pop and hip-hop. (I'm not saying this was right. But I think that's where a lot of it comes from.)

-"Old people music" doesn't mean what it used to. I get the sense that today's 16-year-olds are a lot more open to older music than 16-year-olds in 1995 or 2000. This is probably because of changing distribution methods; a teenager can find tracks by Radiohead or the Rolling Stones today without tuning into a radio station that is explicitly branded as Not For You.

-The album isn't what it once was - again, because of changing distribution methods. There are a handful of pop stars who are big enough to transcend this and generate widespread album buzz. You can probably name all of them.

-As Sonny Jim pointed out, there has been sort of a backlash against the (real or perceived) snobbery of 2000s hipsters. Obscurity or genre-adherence isn't cool, casting a wide net is. I'm sure that sooner or later there will be a backlash against this backlash, but I don't know when or how that will happen.
posted by breakin' the law at 1:55 PM on August 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Obscurity or genre-adherence isn't cool, casting a wide net is.

Case in point: Beyoncé's 'Hold Up' is a deep dancehall track co-written with Diplo and Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, which draws from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Maps' and samples Andy Williams. The toolkits and working models available to musicians these days encourage broad collaboration and playing around with genre.
posted by holgate at 3:39 PM on August 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm a card-carrying, dyed in the wool rockist and even I'd have trouble answering your question. I know Catfish & The Bottlemen are popular in Britain, and the new Against Me! album is supposed to be good. Australia has Tame Impala, a psych-rock band who NME love, and Violent Soho, a very popular straight up rock band, but I don't know how popular they are overseas.

Gaslight Anthem seem to do okay? I know people my age (30s) who like Springsteen and rockabilly acts, but it's a bit self-selecting.

Seconding Japandroids. Savages had a bit of hype recently. Prayers had the guy from Fall Out Boy, but they play more goth rap.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:46 PM on September 21, 2016

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