You’ve seen lists like this before, but now it’s my turn. This is TC’s top 40 modern bands.
Any artist or band that can be considered part of “modern rock” has the potential to be part of this list, including those from the post-punk and new wave era of the early ’80s, but you’re not gonna see truly classic bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, or others of the sort. I chose to leave out classic bands because it’s nearly impossible to rank other modern bands above them.
This list is not meant to rank the best or most influential bands, and it does not imply that certain bands are more important than others. It’s only what I like the most, as of 2006. With that said, here are my top 40 modern bands.
40 Depeche Mode
Serving as a bridge from the end of the new wave era to the future of alternative music, Depeche Mode’s Violator album is a classic. Their newest album, Playing The Angel, is a long-awaited return to their roots.
Favorite Songs: Enjoy The Silence, Personal Jesus, Policy Of Truth, Precious
Favorite Album: Violator
We all know that "WOOHOO" song is great, but there’s also much more to Blur. Their underrated album from 1995, The Great Escape, shows amazing passion and creativity, and is my favorite.
Favorite Songs: The Universal, Song 2, Movin’ On, You’re So Great, Girls And Boys, Crazy Beat
Favorite Album: The Great Escape
Possibly the most innovative rap group of our generation. Unlike a lot of mainstream music, Big Boi and Andre never fail to be endlessly creative. I am continuously impressed by their music.
Favorite Songs: The Whole World, B.O.B., Rosa Parks, So Fresh So Clean, Flip Flop Rock, Hey Ya, The Mighty O
Favorite Album: Stankonia
37 Cat Power
The music of Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) is simple, subdued, and soothing. At the same time, she delivers powerful melodies and messages. Her newest album, The Greatest, is some of the best work she’s ever done.
Favorite Songs: Cross Bones Style, He War, Living Proof, Love & Communication, Hate
Favorite Album: The Greatest
36 Talking Heads
One of the earliest bands in the era of modern rock, Talking Heads brought a brilliant combination of music and lyrics, with an ability to be frivolous and serious at the same time.
Favorite Songs: Once In A Lifetime, Burning Down The House, Psycho Killer, Take Me To The River
Favorite Album: Remain In Light
35 Tori Amos
Wonderful is the only word that can begin to describe Tori Amos. I love the music she creates, the style in which she sings, and even her clever, subtle references to other artists and bands in her lyrics.
Favorite Songs: Cornflake Girl, Caught A Lite Sneeze, Crucify, God, Strange Little Girl, A Sorta Fairytale
Favorite Album: Little Earthquakes
The style of reggae-inspired rock and rap brought by 311 was a unique combination. Their originality was unmatched in most other music at the time. Unfortunately, their recent work leaves more to be desired.
Favorite Songs: Homebrew, Down, All Mixed Up, I’ll Be Here Awhile, Amber
Favorite Album: 311
Perhaps their most defining moment was that episode of MTV Unplugged where Liam didn’t even show up to sing, but when Noel took the stage, he single-handedly carried out one of their best performances.
Favorite Songs: Acquiesce, Supersonic, Rock N’ Roll Star, Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova
Favorite Album: Definitely Maybe
32 Tears For Fears
Another incredible band from the new wave era in the ’80s, and one that’s still making music today, Tears For Fears created some unforgettably addictive songs that withstood the test of time.
Favorite Songs: Pale Shelter, Mad World, Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Laid So Low, Shout
Favorite Album: The Hurting
31 Alanis Morissette
With a strong sense of independence and attitude, Alanis Morissette experimented with a variety of different moods and emotions in her music, and the result was great each time.
Favorite Songs: Ironic, You Oughta Know, Hand In My Pocket, You Learn, Forgiven, Head Over Feet, So Pure
Favorite Album: Jagged Little Pill
30 Barenaked Ladies
This is a band that can sing about any topic and still have a lot of fun with it. From the first time I heard "The Old Apartment," I knew this band would be great. It remains my favorite BNL song to this day.
Favorite Songs: The Old Apartment, Shoebox, One Week, Brian Wilson, If I Had A Million Dollars
Favorite Album: Born On A Pirate Ship
29 Alice In Chains
Sometimes grouped in with the grunge trend, Alice In Chains were never given the credit they really deserved. The power and emotion of Layne Staley’s vocals and lyrics always stood out to me.
Favorite Songs: Would?, No Excuses, Man In The Box, I Stay Away
Favorite Album: Dirt
Properly credited for launching alternative music into the mainstream and leading the grunge movement, Nirvana was one of the first alternative bands I listened to. Their music helped influence the rest of my music taste.
Favorite Songs: Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, Lithium, Heart Shaped Box, In Bloom
Favorite Album: Nevermind
27 Bad Religion
This band is never afraid to tell it like it really is. For over a decade, Bad Religion has made sure their lyrics are at least as powerful as the music behind their songs. The combination of both is nearly impossible to match.
Favorite Songs: Ten In 2010, Infected, Sorrow, Let Them Eat War, God’s Love
Favorite Album: The Empire Strikes First
26 Sheryl Crow
I’ve always found Sheryl Crow to be much more than your everyday pop singer. Her music was among the best of the ’90s, and there is a genuine quality to it that I don’t hear in a lot of other mainstream pop music.
Favorite Songs: Every Day Is A Winding Road, A Change Would Do You Good, My Favorite Mistake, Leaving Las Vegas, All I Wanna Do, Light In Your Eyes
Favorite Album: Sheryl Crow
Shirley Manson’s vocals and the unique electronic/rock sound of the entire band makes Garbage one of a kind. They’ve also tackled some topics in their lyrics that most bands wouldn’t consider at all.
Favorite Songs: Only Happy When It Rains, Queer, Androgyny, Stupid Girl, When I Grow Up, Special, Metal Heart
Favorite Album: Garbage
24 Smashing Pumpkins
Never limiting themselves to one style, Smashing Pumpkins were all over the map with their music, from grunge to… not grunge, from sad to happy, they brought it all.
Favorite Songs: 1979, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Disarm, Tonight Tonight, Siva, Today
Favorite Album: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
23 Blink 182
With an amazing ability to take on the most serious topics while never stopping their irreverence, it seems that Blink 182 covered both ends of the spectrum at the same time.
Favorite Songs: What’s My Age Again, Adam’s Song, All The Small Things, Dammit, Josie
Favorite Album: Enema Of The State
The first half of Audioslave (the second half is still to come), Soundgarden definitely held their own in the ’90s, making some amazing songs and videos that have stayed in my memory ever since.
Favorite Songs: Spoonman, Black Hole Sun, Fell On Black Days, Rusty Cage, Outshined, Superunknown
Favorite Album: Superunknown
21 Tegan and Sara
The unique style of folk rock by Tegan and Sara captivated me from the first time I saw one of their music videos. Since then, I’ve enjoyed every song on all of their albums… which is extremely rare.
Favorite Songs: I Hear Noises, Monday Monday Monday, Come On Kids, Walking With A Ghost
Favorite Album: If It Was You
20 Fiona Apple
Her past songs are both catchy and intelligent, and her newest material is even better. It’s clear that Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine is indeed extraordinary and was worth the wait.
Favorite Songs: Criminal, The First Taste, Never Is A Promise, Better Version Of Me, O’ Sailor
Favorite Album: Extraordinary Machine
Incredibly calm and peaceful music for a dark night, a rainy day, or any other time. Coldplay has become one of my favorite bands to listen and relax to.
Favorite Songs: Trouble, Yellow, God Put A Smile Upon Your Face, Don’t Panic, Talk
Favorite Album: Parachutes
Everyone has heard of Radiohead, but somehow they’ve still managed to slip through the cracks of popular music, never selling out to anyone. Their underappreciated album "The Bends" is my favorite.
Favorite Songs: Just, Fake Plastic Trees, Karma Police, Creep, There There
Favorite Album: The Bends
17 The White Stripes
Breaking onto the music scene in 2001, The White Stripes are the newest band to be ranked so high on my list. From the start, Jack and Meg have impressed me so much with three albums of absolutely amazing music. If we’re lucky, there will be many more years of their music to come.
Favorite Songs: Fell In Love With A Girl, Seven Nation Army, The Air Near My Fingers, The Denial Twist
Favorite Album: Elephant
16 The Offspring
Unlike any other band I’ve ever listened to, it’s very possible to rock out to The Offspring’s songs dozens of times before taking a closer listen to the lyrics and realizing that it’s not all fun and games. The blend of fun music and hard-hitting topical lyrics makes them awesome on two levels.
Favorite Songs: Self Esteem, Come Out And Play, The Kids Aren’t Alright, Gotta Get Away
Favorite Album: Smash
15 The Cure
Always adventurous and passionate, The Cure never fail to impress me with their raw emotion. I’ve been a fan for years, but seeing them in concert was close to a magical experience, unlike any other live show I’ve seen. This band is simply amazing.
Favorite Songs: Why Can’t I Be You, Inbetween Days, Pictures Of You, The End Of The World
Favorite Album: Disintegration
14 Nine Inch Nails
Simply put, Trent Reznor is a musical genius. There is an unparalleled level of raw anger and energy in his voice and music. And it’s not just the music: many of NIN’s videos were absolutely stunning.
Favorite Songs: Head Like A Hole, Hurt, Closer, Wish, Terrible Lie, March Of The Pigs, Sin, Getting Smaller
Favorite Album: Pretty Hate Machine
I’ve always liked R.E.M.’s ability to rock out while still being level-headed. Their songs tend to have a nice balance of emotion and meaning that exhibits a level of calmness as well.
Favorite Songs: It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, Man On The Moon, Animal, Stand
Favorite Album: Document
So much variety from one artist. Beck is inspired by rock, hip-hop, dance, and everything in between, but he doesn’t stop there. He can even take on the serious and melancholy as he did on Sea Change. His newest album, Guero, is a return to a more upbeat sound and is amazing.
Favorite Songs: Loser, Where It’s At, Sexx Laws, Devil’s Haircut, Lost Cause, E-Pro, Chain Reaction
Favorite Album: Guero
11 The Clash
Technically the oldest band on my list, but very important to the history of modern rock. The Clash were part of the original era of alternative and punk music, but their music will live on forever.
Favorite Songs: Train In Vain, London Calling, White Man In Hammersmith Palace, Rock The Casbah, This Is Radio Clash, Safe European Home, English Civil War
Favorite Albums: The Clash, London Calling
10 Stone Temple Pilots
While some critics accused them of following the grunge trend, Stone Temple Pilots were much more than trend followers. With almost no boundaries, Stone Temple Pilots gave us 11 years of genuinely great music that defies a specific genre or classification.
Favorite Songs: Plush, Creep, Interstate Love Song, Big Empty, Sex Type Thing, Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart, Big Bang Baby
Favorite Albums: Core, Purple, Tiny Music
9 Red Hot Chili Peppers
With an unabashed blend of rock, hip-hop, and funk, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have never failed to create an impressive array of styles and sounds. They have been through many ups and downs in over twenty years, but they have always managed to bounce back on the scene. Unsurprisingly, their newest material is great too.
Favorite Songs: Under The Bridge, Give It Away, Suck My Kiss, Otherside, Parallel Universe, Dani California
Favorite Albums: Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Californication
So-called geek rock at its finest, Weezer got the credit they deserved for their Blue Album. The lack of appreciation for their next album, Pinkerton, was something I never understood. Regardless, both albums were nothing short of spectacular, making Weezer one of my favorite bands.
Favorite Songs: Say It Ain’t So, Buddy Holly, The World Has Turned And Left Me Here, In The Garage, Undone, The Good Life, El Scorcho, Pink Triangle
Favorite Albums: Weezer (Blue Album), Pinkerton
7 Pearl Jam
They were sometimes considered just another grunge band, but in reality, Pearl Jam broke the mold, with music that was not just original, but inspirational. Their latest album is their best work in years.
Favorite Songs: Jeremy, Black, Even Flow, Alive, State Of Love And Trust, Do The Evolution, Unemployable
Favorite Albums: Ten, Pearl Jam
6 No Doubt
Such an incredible blend of reggae, punk, ska, pop, and rock. No Doubt is such an awesome band and Gwen Stefani is simply remarkable. She has always written deeply personal lyrics and expressed them with such true emotion. Tragic Kingdom remains one of my favorite albums to this day.
Favorite Songs: Excuse Me Mister, Just A Girl, Spiderwebs, Don’t Speak, Different People, Sunday Morning, Trapped In A Box, New
Favorite Albums: Tragic Kingdom, Return Of Saturn
5 Green Day
They’ve been called punk-rock, pop-punk, and many other terms of the week, but really they just rock. Green Day has consistently been one of my favorite bands, from ten years ago to today. One of their very first singles, "When I Come Around," is one of my favorite songs of all time.
Favorite Songs: When I Come Around, Longview, Basket Case, Brain Stew, She, Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life), Hitchin’ A Ride, American Idiot, Holiday
Favorite Albums: Dookie, Insomniac, American Idiot
4 Rage Against The Machine
There is an unmatched level of energy, raw anger, and passion clearly evident in Zack De La Rocha’s voice, in Tom Morello’s raging guitars, and in the band’s strong social/political message. Rage Against The Machine is easily one of my favorite bands, and I can only imagine their possible impact if they were still around as a group today.
Favorite Songs: Killing In The Name, Bullet In The Head, Bombtrack, Bulls On Parade, Guerrilla Radio, Sleep Now In The Fire, Testify, Renegades Of Funk
Favorite Albums: Rage Against The Machine, Evil Empire, The Battle Of Los Angeles
3 Beastie Boys
Oh word, this is just about as great as it gets. MCA, Adrock, and Mike D have been tearing up the mic for nearly twenty years, experimenting with every conceivable type of hip-hop and rock, and it’s always been amazing. The Beastie Boys have a well-deserved spot on the list of my favorite bands.
Favorite Songs: Sabotage, Sure Shot, So What’cha Want, Pass The Mic, Gratitude, Something’s Got To Give, Fight For Your Right, No Sleep Till Brooklyn, Intergalactic, Ch-Check It Out
Favorite Albums: Ill Communication, Check Your Head, To The 5 Boroughs
Legendary, spiritual, and extraordinary. U2 is pretty much the only band to help lead the way for the entire genre of modern rock in the early ’80s while remaining great today. Bono’s incredible vocals and the band’s music combine to create an experience like no other.
Favorite Songs: Sunday Bloody Sunday, New Year’s Day, I Will Follow, With Or Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Where The Streets Have No Name, Pride
Favorite Albums: War, The Joshua Tree, The Unforgettable Fire
1 Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl could have let the tragic end of Nirvana stop him for good, but he turned it around and created an incredible band of his own. This band has always connected with me, ever since the first time that I started really paying attention to music. Foo Fighters are unmistakably and undoubtedly my favorite band.
Favorite Albums: The Colour And The Shape, Foo Fighters, There Is Nothing Left To Lose