MMM Top Ten: 10 Alternative Rock Bands You Should be Listening to in 2022
Mark Josephson, Executive Director of the New Music Seminar said back in 1988 that “alternative music has real strength, real quality, real excitement, and it has to be socially significant, as opposed to Whitney Houston, which is pablum.” That’s a great explanation of what started during the late-‘70s to early-‘80s as college radio features like Dead Kennedys and Butthole Surfers, who exploded into mainstream success about ten years later, and eventually gave birth to grunge, Britpop, indie rock, and post-rock during the ‘90s.
Because of that explosion of further sub-genres, it’s almost impossible to define alternative rock in 2022. The boundaries between indie rock, post-rock, shoegaze, hard rock, or even punk rock can be confusing. However, here we have attempted to put together a list of some of the most interesting names in today’s alternative rock scene, where living legends such as Eddie Vedder and Jack White meet new talents in the Mysterines.
Photo Credit: Press
Although this London band lacks some of the depth and musical expertise of let’s say Wolf Alice or Spoon, their latest album Now or Whenever gives us an idea of how far they have come musically since their chart-topping debut Enjoy It While It Lasts from 2012. ”Catch You on the Way Back In” is their best song yet.
#9. Avril Lavigne
Photo Credit: DTA Records
If your idea of alternative rock is Avril Lavigne, well here she is. Love Sux is as flawed that any album featuring blackbear and Machine Gun Kelly would be and absolutely overdosed with worn-out clichés, but tracks such as “Bite Me” could have been written by Avril twenty years ago, offering a nostalgia trip back to when nothing screamed out teenage rebel more than converse shoes, straight hair with blonde streaks, and a little too much eyeliner.
#8. Eddie Vedder
Photo Credit: Gareth Catterm
Although not quite up there with the monumental Ten, Vs., and Vitalogy of his early Pearl Jam days, Eddie Vedder – backed up by his band the Earthlings – released his best album since 2007’s stunning, acoustic soundtrack Into the Wild followed up by Pearl Jam’s finest record of a decade, Gigaton (I still play “Who Ever Said”), with 2022’s Earthling, his most varied solo effort yet. Eddie Vedder is a legend in alternative rock music and with his last two efforts, it finally seems as if his rather weak beginning of the 21st century has been cured.
Photo Credit: Oliver Halfin
Since their formation in 1993, Texas’ finest rock group Spoon has aged like the finest wine. Their last two records, 2017’s Hot Thoughts and 2014’s They Want My Soul, were both good enough, but 2022’s Lucifer on the Sofa is their best since 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Highlights: the snarly Noel Gallagher-sneeze of the Oasis-recalling ”Wild” and the instant classic piano rocker ”On the Radio.”
Photo Credit: Jonas Persson
He is singing in Swedish, so unless you’ve decided to take a language course in the biggest of the Scandinavian languages you will miss out on some intense lyrics often harrowed with loneliness and pain. But if you thought that the Swedish music scene is all about ABBA and if you’re interested to check out the alternative rock venues outside of Seattle, you should consider listening to the greatest rock singer on the national Swedish scene. His early records with punk band Ebba Grön, debuting with 1979’s We’re Only in It for the Drugs, were largely inspired by the Clash, but as he grew older and went solo in the 1990s, Joakim Thåström’s lyrics went deeper and his albums heavier. With a voice and persona similar to Tom Waits, solo albums such as 1999’s Det är ni som e dom konstiga, det är jag som e normal (translated as “It’s you who are strange, it’s me who’s normal”) and 2009’s Kärlek är för dom som har tur (”love is for the lucky ones”), has earnt him a devoted cult following, and he keeps inspiring new generations with his emotional depth.
#5. Jack White
Photo Credit: David James Swanson
Who wrote the most instantly recognizable riff in the history of alternative rock music? Well, as far as I’m concerned, I never met anyone who didn’t know the intro to “Seven Nation Army.” The widely acclaimed and 12-time Grammy-winning White Stripes guitarist and vocalist Jack White recorded six great albums with partner and then ex-partner Meg White before approaching a solo career which gave us the excellent Blunderbuss back in 2012. Ten years later, he’s as active as ever and his new album Fear of the Dawn is set to be released on April 8th this year. Don’t miss it.
#4. Kiwi Jr.
Photo Credit: Warren Calbeck
This criminally underrated Canadian rock band looks nerdier than anyone else on the list, but they are just as tight – listen to their KEXP performance if you don’t believe me. By now, they have released two excellent pieces of hook-laden and fun rock records – 2020’s Football Money and 2021’s Cooler Returns – and I am still in love with the working class hero-anthem ”Salary Man.” Is their next album the big breakthrough they deserve?
#3. Mark Lanegan
Photo Credit: Travis Keller
Known as the lead singer for the early grunge band Screaming Trees as well as for his time as a member of Queens of the Stone Age and the Gutter Twins, Mark William Lanegan – one of the great voices of alternative rock music – passed away at 57-years-old in February of this year. His career spanned over five decades and saw him collaborate with huge names such as Kurt Cobain (with whom he recorded an unreleased album of Lead Belly covers), Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs, Belle and Sebastian, and Manic Street Preachers to mention a few. But Mark Lanegan made a big name for himself as well, and his bluesy, largely acoustic 1994 masterpiece Whiskey for the Holy Ghost gained rave reviews, with Rolling Stone Magazine praising his “jarring” vocal expressions and the “shrieks of otherworldly angst,” while concluding that the album “solidifies his status as king of the Seattle blues singers.” Joining Kurt, Layne, and Chris to jam in wherever they are now, Mark Lanegan will be missed and remembered by alternative rock fans for years to come, and if you still haven’t heard his deep baritone voice, it’s about time to do so.
#2. The Mysterines
Photo Credit: Steve Gullick
With the best British rock singer to appear since Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell in Lia Metcalfe, the Mysterines takes the lunatic brooding of the mid-‘70s gritty proto-punk scene (Raw Power and New York Dolls) and fuses it with ’90s grunge rock (Nevermind and Celebrity Skin) and tracks like ”Life’s a B*tch (But I Love It So Much)”, ”Hung Up”, and ”Dangerous” are instant alt-rock classics. Although they still haven’t quite discovered a distinctive sound that truly belongs to them yet, the Mysterines appears to be probably the most interesting new alternative rock band around right now.
#1. Wolf Alice
Photo Credit: Jordan Hemingway
Both 2015’s My Love is Cool and 2017’s Visions of a Life were great albums, but 2021’s Blue Weekend just keeps growing on me. Like many others, I was initially puzzled by the ever-changing musical venues, with Ellie Rowsell and her band constantly changing from sweeping ballads (”Delicious Things”) to powerful synth-pop numbers (”How Can I Make It Ok?”), pure punk rock (”Play the Greatest Hits”), the ’90s Smashing Pumpkins-recalling grunge (”Smile”), and much more. Now, I have finally learned to love it. Blue Weekend is a tour de force of what the term alternative rock is all about in the 2020s.
Written by: Douglas Dahlström
MY ALTERNATIVE ROCK PLAYLIST:
1. “CATCH YOU ON THE WAY BACK IN” – SPECTOR
2. “BITE ME” – AVRIL LAVINGE
3. “LONG WAY” – EDDIE VEDDER
4. “ON THE RADIO” – SPOON
5. “INGEN SJUNGER BLUES SOM JEFFREY LEE” – THÅSTRÖM