Authored by Phil Dotree in Music
Published on 11-05-2009
Alternative rock, or “alt-rock,” is sort of a catch all genre classification. Alternative rock, in the view of most people, is any rock that you wouldn’t hear on a pop radio station. To others, it’s rock music that doesn’t fit standard conventions.
Because the genre’s so vague, it can be difficult to choose a “best of.” However, there are some alt rock albums that are popular and universal enough that they’re undeniable classics.
Here’s a look at a few of the best alternative rock albums ever released.
Radiohead – Kid A – Radiohead went from the mainstream to alternative, then back again. And back again. The band is not what you’d term “accessible.” Yet they still manage to put out album after successful album while redefining what rock music can be. Nowhere was this more present than on Kid A. Radiohead brought ethereal synths and pounding drums to the mainstream. They toyed with melody, harmony, and song structure. Basically, they did everything that you don’t want to do if you want your music played on the radio. Somehow, the album still had a few successful singles. It’s widely regarded as one of the best alternative rock albums ever created. The sequel, Amnesiac, was equally brilliant.
The Wallflowers – Bringing Down The Horse – Jakob Dylan’s band greatly improved the quality of late 1990s alternative rock. This album sold huge largely due to the single “One Headlight.” The entire album is filled with pensive lyrics and classically well written tunes. Their future releases were not as successful. Still, Bringing Down The Horse was brilliant in the right places. A timeless, now underrated rock and roll classic.
Wilco – Being There – Wilco has finally gotten the respect that they deserve. They’re one of America’s greatest bands, and released a string of near-perfect albums. The first of their classics was Being There, and it’s still their most listenable album. It’s two discs of sprawling Americana alternative rock. Whether they’re reveling in the horns of “Monday” or quietly drifting into the background of “Misunderstood,” Wilco had a way of making the songs sound close to home. They’ve since moved on and gotten more sonically experimental, but Being There is their best straight-up collection of songs.
The Strokes – Is This It? – The Strokes make this list because “hipster” isn’t a genre (yet). Is This It? was a massive critical success before it was ever released. If it didn’t sound good when it came out, that would be one thing. However, it redefined modern music, leading to a surge in old-style melodies backed by rythmically exact guitars. Singles like “Last Night” made some headway on popular radio. The Strokes haven’t mined much new territory since this album, but they don’t have to. They’ve got enough cool left over from Is This It? to last them a few decades.
If you have a favorite alternative rock album, we want to hear from you. Of course, if you just want to disagree with us, we’d love that, too. Post in the comments section below this article and share your thoughts.