Greta Van Fleet
Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images
Greta Van Fleet, Tamar-Kali, White Reaper: 11 Artists Keeping Rock Alive
Rock may not be the center of the music universe that it once was — remember, earlier this year rap & R&B overtook rock as the leading genres in music. But just as fashion trends come and go, perhaps rock will rise up to rule once again. At the very least, to quote Neil Young, "Rock and roll is here to stay/It's better to burn out than to fade away."
Popularity aside, the truth is the rock scene has never been more vibrant. New discoveries are ripe to explore at every turn of the internet — if anything, there's probably too little time to go down the rabbit hole of the seemingly infinite supply of new rock music.
With that thought in mind, here are 11 artists we've been checking out lately who are ready to carry the torch for rock and roll. Take a listen and rock on.
Greta Van Fleet
Talk about a band with buzz. Greta Van Fleet began their steady climb when their song "Standing On" was featured in a 2014 Chevrolet commercial. In 2016 "Highway Tune" — now north of 15 million views on YouTube — garnered placement on the Showtime TV show "Shameless." The quartet has since released a pair of EPs, 2017's Black Smoke Rising and 2018's From The Fires. They've toured with the Struts, performed at Elton John's Oscars party and they'll be among the acts at the Foo Fighters-curated Cal Jam 18.
Sound-wise, Greta Van Fleet have been described as an authentic throwback to the likes of Led Zeppelin and the halcyon days of classic rock, with lead singer Josh Kiszka being likened to a modern-day Robert Plant. How do the band feel about those lofty comparisons? "Are you kidding me? I embrace it!" guitarist Jake Kiszka told Guitar World. "That big riff style that [Jimmy] Page pioneered is something that always excited me. … Maybe if people see what we're doing and how cool it is, we can help make it come back." — Tim McPhate
From a one-woman band making lo-fi noise pop in her bedroom to the frontwoman of a funk-fusion explosion, Meg Remy brought her ongoing pop music experiment known as U.S. Girls to new heights with 2018's In A Poem Unlimited. Remy wrote and demoed the album's songs, then handed them over to a band from Toronto called the Cosmic Range to resculpt and record in a live setting, before she boiled them back down with meticulous editing and mixing. The final product is a funky mix of soul, rock, blues, jazz, and disco (yes, disco) that lends the album its unignorable hooky bounce on songs like "M.A.H.," "Rosebud" and "Pearly Gates." With a stellar album out now and Remy already working on the next step in the project's evolution, U.S. Girls are worth keeping a close eye on this summer. — Nate Hertweck
Snail Mail's first full studio album, Lush, will be released on June 8. With a few singles already released, including the infectious "Heat Wave," Lindsey Jordan backed by Alex Bass on bass and Ray Brown on drums have a laid-back, spatial rock groove. Like Aimee Mann in 'Til Tuesday back in the '80s, the feelings and the chords are all lush while the ensemble is minimal, with honest lyrics that can get inside your head. Jordan has received a lot of positive recognition but don't let publicity come between you and the great headspace she crafts and leads. — Philip Merrill
If there's perhaps one global pessimistic image associated with rock music, it's that the genre is dominated by posturing straight white men. Luckily, there are many artists breaking this mold, and singer/songwriter Shingai Shoniwa is one of them. The London native is perhaps best known as the lead singer/bassist for the indie rock outfit the Noisettes. Her voice is rich and one-of-a-kind, and she infuses her music with soul and blues influences. Beyond her solo work and time with the Noisettes, Shoniwa has been featured on tracks such as Annie Lennox's HIV/AIDS awareness single "Sing" from her 2007 album, Songs Of Mass Destruction. Shoniwa lent her vocals alongside 23 total singers on the track, including Madonna, Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Pink, and Melissa Etheridge, among others. "Shoniwa is a living, breathing manifestation of the rock and roll spirit, with a voice that is equal parts Iggy Pop and Billie Holiday," Rolling Stone wrote. That's a rock icon we can get behind. — Renée Fabian
Tash Sultana is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and one-woman rock show hailing from Melbourne, Australia. Having built a following starting with a viral video of her now-trademark solo performance setup and fiery guitar playing that grabbed over 1 million views in just five days, Sultana has been mounting buzz touring small international festivals before finally hosting her stateside coming-out party with a series of mid-card festival billings — including a well-received Coachella set — that has garnered her thousands of new fans. Her as-yet-untitled debut album is due out in 2018, but her 2016 Notion EP sets a high standard. This is one to watch. — Brian Haack
Combining confessional songwriting with some inventive guitar playing, Arielle is an artist worth getting to know. The Austin, Texas-based musician has performed onstage with Cee Lo Green and traded licks with virtuoso guitarist Eric Johnson on tour. Her most recent EPs, 2018's Mind Lion and 2017's My Gypsy Heart, run the musical gamut from blues and folk to Americana and straight-up rock. Plus, she's recorded some dope covers, spanning Elvis to Queen. Arielle herself has taken to labeling her music "classic folk rock," but this is a versatile, grounded artist with a wealth of talent. Check out her roaring instrumental "Take II" for a taste of her formidable guitar chops. — T.M.
Hailing from Provo, Utah, the Aces' shimmering indie pop/rock has been developed over the past decade by playing everywhere from local school rallies to SXSW. Their debut album, 2018's When My Heart Felt Volcanic, is jam-packed with sugary hooks and glistening guitars that both harken back to the pop ear candy of the '80s and push the format of a four-piece rock band forward into a new dimension. Made up of an all-female lineup featuring vocalist/guitarist Cristal Ramirez, vocalist/lead guitarist Katie Henderson, bassist McKenna Petty, and drummer Alisa Ramirez, the Aces are popping up at festivals all over the country this summer, including BottleRock, Firefly and Lollapalooza. — N.H.
With a Catholic school upbringing, the punk and hip-hop vibes of New York, and her exposure to the Southern U.S./West African Gullah culture, vocalist/guitarist Tamar-Kali has turned rock music on its head. She released her debut solo album, Black Bottom LP, in 2010 and has contributed other influential tracks to the genre that combine her rock sensibilities with a demand for social justice. Look no further than the 2006 single "Boot," which chronicles a young African-American girl's struggle to recognize her own beauty. "In her lyrics and her own personal style, she blends feminist politics and Afrocentricity in a way that gives her hard rock sound a soulful edge," wrote NPR. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native has also worked as a vocalist with Fishbone and OutKast, served as the face of the James Spooner-directed documentary Afro-Punk, and had vocal features in films such as 2011's Pariah and 2015's Bessie, starring Queen Latifah. Most recently, Tamar-Kali made her first foray into writing film music, penning the score for director Dee Rees' 2017 Academy Award-nominated film Mudbound. — R.F.
The Big Moon
A shortlisted Mercury Prize nominee for 2017 alongside Ed Sheeran, London's the Big Moon has been rising. Their 2017 release, Love In The 4th Dimension, and its lead single, "Formidable," kept their reputation on the rise, too, with its Brit-rock feel. Guitarist and lead singer Juliette Jackson gets her spotlighted share of the credit, and the band's guitar playing has attracted its own set of fans, but every detail of the four-piece's execution has finer points of London rock veering into hard and heavy, but not going over the line. — P.M.
Formed in 2013 in Louisville, Ky., White Reaper make a bold claim with the title of their sophomore album, 2017's World's Best American Band. But if calling their debut album White Reaper Does It Again is any indication, the five-piece have a healthy sense of humor to go along with their riff-heavy rock so retro it can transcend the time/space continuum at will. Pitchfork even called their single "Judy French" "a song that can make a Kia in rush hour traffic feel like a Camaro doing donuts in a high school parking lot." For a band with their tongues planted so firmly in cheek, they remind us what's possible when the primal power of classic rock influences are taken seriously. — N.H.
Tired Lion comprise a trio of indie rockers from Perth, Australia, who draw their musical influence from a youth spent busking in Fremantle, a diverse port city outside Perth, and listening to the Smashing Pumpkins' GRAMMY-nominated LP Siamese Dream on endless repeat. The Pumpkins' influence shines through in fine form on tracks such as "Are You Listening … Listener?" from their 2013 EP All We Didn't Know. But it's tracks such as "Where Were You" — an album-exclusive from the band's debut Dumb Days that's not currently available on any streaming services — that showcase the expertise with which lead singer Sophie Hopes can work through a vocal performance that starts out sugary sweet and builds to a tortured, sonically mesmerizing mess. — B.H.