10 Recommended New Rock Records Or Why Listening To New Music Is Good

99 times out of 10, people who complain about the lack of a certain kind of music being made today or, even worse, the quality of today’s music, typically haven’t put in the time to listen.

Saying things like “All new music sucks” or “There’s no good rock being made today” is simply wrongheaded because there’s more music being made every day than anyone has the time to listen to, let along judge. That’s why we rely on friends, family, DJs, algorithms, and music critics who act as curators, sifting through the unmanageable mass of new records to mine out gems.

Of course picking favorites includes a healthy dose of personal preference, which is largely informed by the music we grew up with, especially in our formative years when our most meaningful music connections are made.

“A song playing comprises a very specific and vivid set of memory cues. Because the multiple-trace memory models assume that context is encoded along with memory traces, the music that you have listened to at various times of your life is cross-coded with the events of those times. That is, the music is linked to events of the time, and those events are linked to the music.” Daniel Levitin, This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession

Our connection to specific music is deeply personal and the ability to appreciate the new fades with age. From the same Levintin book:

The brain’s synapses are programmed to grow for a number of years, making new connections. After that time, there is a shift toward pruning, to get rid of unneeded connections…. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to reorganize itself…. the amount of reorganization that can occur in most adults is vastly less than can occur in children and adolescents.

If we put these thoughts together, I suggest listening to new music with as open a set of ears as possible can help our brains stay elastic. Like learning a new language. I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but its my story and I’m sticking with it—listening to new music is good for our brains.

Being a product of the 1960s, much of the music I grew up with falls into the rock genre and I tended to prefer ‘older’ rock from the ’60s when I hit my teen years in the ’70s. Fortunately for me, my father also spent a lot of time listening to music on the hifi, and his tastes were reflective of his generation—e.g. Sinatra and cool Jazz—so I had a lovely cross-generational medley singing in my head.

I know a lot people my age who prefer listening to what are now, as time would have it, oldies. Not me. I rarely listen to the music I grew up with, and find discovering new music to be much more exciting. It feeds a need that repetition starves.

When it comes to ‘rock’, I certainly enjoy new music that can be put in that old, crumpled bag but I am not interested in new music that merely apes the old—that’s what cover bands are for— since nothing can compete with the multiple-trace memory models of my youth, where experiences tied to music are still vivid in my mind. Instead of being disappointed by my inability to connect to new music in the same way I did when I was 16, I take great pleasure in discovering the new as often as I can get it.

If we judge music from the perspective of the old and familiar while searching for a similar hit from the new, disappointment awaits. Seems to me, some people are searching for their youth in their music choices, especially when it comes to 60+ year-old genres like rock, where the possibility of something new tickling those old familiar bones is about as likely as finding a new pair of oxfords that are more comfortable than your well-worn kicks. Levintin also points out that the more we listen to our Golden Oldies, the weaker those cherished music/event connections become. Something to keep in mind.

I’m going way out on a limb, the shakiest of branches, by offering some new favorite music that can be called rock, even though other genre tags accompany every one—a rolling stone that’s been rolling for more than 6 decades gathers genre tags. I think Bob Dyan said that. This is music that I find fun to listen to, replete with a certain kind of abandon, albeit a bit more comfortable and quiet kind of fun I still remember, as if it was yesterday, that went hand-in-hand with singing along to the The Doors with friends out (very) loud on the hood of my car well into the early morning hours as if we didn’t have a care in the world. Until the police came.


Alt-J: The Dream (Atlantic Records)

King Hannah: I’m Not Sorry, I Was Just Being Me (City Slang)

Black Country, New Road: Ants From Up There (Ninja Tune)

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis: Carnage (AWAL Recordings)

Oso Oso: Sore Thumb (Triple Crown Records)

Low: Hey What (Sub Pop)

Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime (Matador)

Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance (Matador)

Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg (4AD)

Spoon: Lucifer on the Sofa (Matador)

1. I know you know, but if you find any music here that you like, click on the label link and explore—odds are you’ll find more