Alternative rock is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent underground music of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. It was essentially created to diverge from mainstream rock music. Alternative rock comprised of music put out by artists that were their own in all aspects and was different from the popular music being produced by large entertainment corporations at the time.
Therefore, alternative rock encompasses different forms of rock like punk rock, indie rock, post-punk, new wave, etc. But one thing they all have in common is that they have individualistic approaches to lyrics writing, composition, and singing. Alternative music often features music talking about social issues, such as drug use, depression, suicide, and environmentalism. Here, we have compiled a list of five best albums (hailed by critics and audiences alike) that fall under this genre of music.
Daydream Nation is the fifth studio album by Sonic Youth and was released to critical success in 1988. Sonic Youth emerged from the experimental no wave art and music scene in New York before evolving into a more conventional rock band and becoming the most prominent one among the American noise rock groups. The band features founding members Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass, vocals, guitar) and Lee Ranaldo (guitar, vocals), who have been together for the entire history of the band, while Steve Shelley (drums) joined a few years later. The entire album is early experimentation of avant-rock and post-punk as it follows unconventional guitar solos and surreal lyrics. The most popular tracks in the album are “Teen Age Riot”, “Hey Joni”, and “Silver Rocket”.
The Queen is Dead
The Queen is Dead is the third studio album by English rock band The Smiths and was released in June 1986. The group consisted of vocalist Morrissey, guitarist Johnny Marr, bassist Andy Rourke, and drummer Mike Joyce. Critics have called them one of the most important bands to emerge from the British independent music scene of the 1980s. Most of the songs in their albums are about the musician’s personal experiences in life before and as they were producing the album, giving their music a unique feel. The album features songs like “Never Had No One Ever” that reflects Morrissey’s feeling unsafe and, being from an immigrant family, not at home on the streets of Manchester. Similarly, in the case of “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side,” the song’s lyrics refer allegorically to the band’s experience of the music industry that failed to appreciate it. Other songs in the albums are “The Queen is Dead”, “Frankly, Mr. Shankly”, and “I Know It’s Over”.
Marquee Moon is the debut album by American rock band Television and was released in 1977. The group was founded by Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Billy Ficca, and Richard Hell. For Marquee Moon, Verlaine and fellow guitarist Richard Lloyd abandoned contemporary punk rock’s power chords in favor of rock and jazz-inspired interplay, melodic lines, and counter-melodies. Verlaine’s lyrics, which were widely acclaimed after the album’s release, combined urban and pastoral imagery, references to Lower Manhattan, themes of adolescence, and influences from French poetry. He also used puns and double entendres to give his songs an impressionistic quality and that is why the album falls under the genre art-punk. Popular tracks from the album include “Marquee Moon”, “See No Evil”, “Venus” and “Friction”.
David Bowie needs no introduction. Be it his reinvention and visual presentation with every release or his work in glam rock as the androgynous Ziggy Stardust him/herself, in the late 70s, Bowie was a trailblazer fusing his unique style of rock and creating something totally different. For his 11th studio album Low, he collaborated with German bands like Kraftwerk and Brian Eno and experimented with minimalist beats and ambient soundscapes. Low features Bowie’s first explorations of electronic and ambient music. Side one of the album contains short, direct avant-pop song-fragments and side two is composed of long, mostly instrumental tracks. Though the album received a mixed response post its release, recent music critics argue that this was because it was way ahead of its time. Top tracks from the album are “Speed of Life”, “Breaking Glass”, “What in the World”, “Warszawa” etc.
Nevermind by the American Rock band Nirvana is credited to have broken alternative rock into the mainstream and helped do away with the stereotypical image that metal was all about long hair and head banging and that it could be as deep and meaningful as any other genre of music like jazz and folk. And over time, Kurt Cobain’s raspy vocals and searing guitar chords set the template for the rest of the 90s alternative rock. Nevermind, their second studio album that was released in 1991, ended up selling approximately 300,000 copies a week. Some noteworthy tracks in the album are “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come as You Are”, “In Bloom”, “Breed”, and “Lithium”.