Rock music has become a way broader term in the recent decades than it used to be when people started calling things “Rock and Roll” in the 1950s. Rock has morphed into tons of distinct genres over the years. It’s come to include artists as different as Imagine Dragons and Avenged Sevenfold, a couple of the best 2010s bands included in this list, for example.
Still, there’s an artistic throughline that connects all music we call rock, from the best bands in the past to the best 2010s rock bands. Now that we can look back at the 2010s, we can judge what music from the decade is going to stand the test of time and ultimately be the best of the decade. Read on to find out what 2010s rock bands you’ll still be hearing about in the decades to come:
21. The Pretty Reckless
This band’s sound combines hard-driving, Metallica-like guitar tone and drumming with anthemic melodies, and dramatic, heartfelt lyrics. Its music videos center on lead singer Taylor Momsen, who delivers a theatrical and melodramatic performance while the band backs her up in the background. The Pretty Reckless were formed in NYC in 2009 by guitarist Ben Phillips, bassist Mark Damon, and drummer Jamie Perkins. Their lineup has remained the same throughout their career. Their debut album was Light Me Up in 2010, and they hit their apex of commercial success in 2014 with the EP Going to Hell.
Next: The best bands of the 2000s (top ’00s rock bands list)
20. Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire has an eclectic Indie Rock sound that’s been called dance-pop, art pop, and even baroque pop. The group has gone through several stylistic changes and experiments, but their core style is defined by danceable rhythms coupled with sentimental lyrics and melodies. They helped pioneer the aesthetic of the mid-2000s and 2010s with an array of semi-obscure instruments like accordions, mandolins, hurdy-gurdies, and violins. Hailing from Canada, their core members are Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, with Josh Deu as a founding member who left the band in 2003.
Founded in 2001, their career was already soaring by the 2010s, but their sound still had a strong influence on the music of the early 2010s with albums like The Suburbs and Reflektor.
Next: The best 2000s songs (a list of our favorites from the decade)
19. Kings of Leon
The members of Kings of Leon were heavily influenced by country music during their development as musicians, and it shows subtly—underneath their pop sound are simple, powerful chord progressions and melodies.
By the 2010s, Kings of Leon started to fuse their country influences with a pop sensibility that used soaring and whooping vocals, and anthemic melodies, and combining all this with a twangy vocal delivery reminiscent of Eddie Vedder. The band formed in Nashville in 1999, all of them brothers in the Followill family of Nashville, Tennessee. Their careers took off in the mid-2000s, and by the 2010s, Kings of Leon was a world-renowned band that boasted highly successful albums like Only by the Night and Mechanical Bull.
Next: Our ultimate list of the best albums of all time
18. Twenty One Pilots
Always playful yet heartfelt in their songwriting, Twenty One Pilots incorporates many musical influences. Their eclectic, always rhythmically interesting sound ranges from something approaching Dub or Reggae to straight-ahead synthpop. Their infectious earworm melodies are easy for anyone who had a radio between the years of 2011 and 2017 to recognize. The band formed in Columbus, Ohio in 2009, dropping two members in 2011 to become the signature two-man act with Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun that brought them to fame. They hit their stride commercially in 2012 with the album Vessel and went on to record the chart-topping album Blurryface in 2015.
Next: The best music videos ever made (our ultimate list)
17. The 1975
Lush, sometimes melancholy, sometimes exuberant, highly-produced pop ballads define The 1975’s sound. Synths swell like the innocent and adolescent feelings they evoke, usually accompanied by a driving bassline and drum groove. Their melodies are notoriously hard to get out of your head, and their frontman, Matthew Healy, delivers them with tons of emo soul-baring bravado. They were founded in 2002 in the UK town of Wilmslow, Cheshire by Healey, bassist Ross Macdonlad, guitarist Adam Hann, and drummer George Daniel. Their notable albums include The 1975, the Facedown EP, and I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It.
Next: The best emo songs of all time (a list of our favorites)
16. Avenged Sevenfold
This band’s career has ranged between metalcore and sentimental rock ballads. Metalcore combines the most aggressive aspects of punk and metal to create a sound that’s meant for listening while thrashing around in a mosh pit.
Avenged Sevenfold is an accomplished metalcore band that takes the sensibilities of that genre and makes it more listenable for a wide audience, bringing their background to bear on hard and soft rock. Founded in 1999 in Huntington Beach, CA, their big commercial success came in the late 2000s with their Bat Country tour, and it intensified through the early to mid-2010s despite the death of key member The Rev with albums like Nightmare and Waking the Fallen: Resurrected.
Next: The best bands of the 90s (top 1990s rock bands list)
Instantly recognizable for their unsettling garb and macabre masks, Slipknot makes music that matches their appearance and then some. They’ve been called a “groove metal” band, which accurately describes their experimental, funky, and, well, groovy sound. They were founded in 1995 by Shawn Crahan, Joey Jordison, and Paul Gray in Des Moines, Iowa. They’ve taken a few years-long hiatuses in their career, but they remained popular throughout the 2010s, with albums like Antennas to Hell and The Gray Chapter.
14. Florence + the Machine
When you think of Indie Pop in the 2010s, you’re probably imagining the stomp-clamp jangly groove and whooping vocals that Florence + the Machine helped to invent. Their sound was widely influential and has stylistic similarities to bands like Arcade Fire and the Lumineers. They formed in London in 2007 around vocalist Florence Welch, backed up by keyboard player Isabella Summers, guitarist Rob Ackroyd, Harpist Tom Monger, and various other musicians brought in over the years to play jangly grooves on obscure instruments. They kicked off their career with the album Lungs in 2008 and kept it going with Ceremonials in 2011 and How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful in 2014.
Next: The greatest guitarists of all time (best guitar players ever)
13. Fleet Foxes
This Folk-Rock revival project resurrects musical ideas from the Folk-Rock of the 60s and 70s, which itself was a revival of older tunes and styles. The band is great at creating lush and spacious vocal arrangements, inspiring songs, great folksy grooves, and heart-rending lyrics. It was formed in 2006 in Seattle by Robin Pecknold and Skyler Skjeilset and kicked off its career with the albums Sun Giant and Fleet Foxes, which got lots of attention through the ancient communication method of myspace. They have stayed relevant throughout the 2010s with albums like Crack-Up and Shore.
Next: The best rock bands of all time (top bands ever formed)
12. Cage the Elephant
This band blends elements of Punk, Blues, Grunge, and Classic Rock to create an infectiously eclectic groove. The band was formed in 2006 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Cage the Elephant hit its stride in the 2010s with the albums Thank You, Happy Birthday in 2011, Melophobia in 2013, and Tell Me I’m Pretty in 2015.
Next: The best classic rock songs of all time (our ultimate list)
11. Imagine Dragons
Whimsical, fun, imaginative, and instantly recognizable, Imagine Dragons’ sound was a defining influence on the radio pop of the 2010s. Their songs were full of dramatic lyrics that didn’t restrict themselves to the typical pop song fare, instead going for more fantastical topics. The band hails from Las Vegas, Nevada, and was founded by singer Dan Reynolds, drummer Daniel Platzmanm, guitarist Wayne Sermon, and bassist Ben McKee. Their notable albums include the 2012 Night Visions and the 2014 Smoke + Mirrors.
Next: The top bass players of all time
10. The Black Keys
A Blues-Rock outfit that revived bluesy guitar playing and songwriting for the 2010s, The Black Keys put their own spin on their influences and popularized them for a new decade. The members of the band were influenced by old Delta Blues recordings early in their musical development, but they added a layer of grunge, indie-garage rock, and modern pop songwriting to the blues, shooting them to success with albums like Brothers and El Camino in the early 2010s. They were formed in Akron, Ohio in 2001 by guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney.
Next: Greatest drum players of all time (best drummers ever)
9. Foo Fighters
Formed in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s passing by Nirvana’s drummer, Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters took the grunge music of the 90s to the next step in its evolution. Post-grunge, hard rock, and pop-rock all capture the Foo Fighters’ sound, which is more polished and complex than grunge. Foo Fighters began right after Nirvana’s breakup as a solo project by Dave Grohl, but the band took on new members and continued to be influential throughout the 2010s with albums like Wasting Light and the EPs Sonic Highways and Saint Cecilia.
Next: The best 90s songs (top overall picks from the 1990s)
8. Thirty Seconds to Mars
One of the few successful bands also headlined by a famous actor, i.e. Jared Leto, Thirty Seconds to Mars is an emo-inflected alternative rock group. Their two core members are the Leto brothers Jared and Shannon, though they’ve had many personnel changes. Their notable 2010s albums have been This is War, Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams, and America.
Next: Top alternative rock bands of all time
Like the name suggests, Disturbed is a heavy metal band. However, their music has an optimistic core and anthemic, melodic qualities that sets it apart from other metal music and brings it closer to stadium rock. The band started in Chicago in 1994 and had a blazing career, establishing a loyal fanbase. They returned from a four-year break in 2015 with the album Immortalized.
6. Five Finger Death Punch
Five Finger Death Punch, almost like Insane Clown Posse, courts the disaffected with its out-there aesthetics and society-bashing lyrics. They go for chugging riffs and rough, grunting vocals. The band formed in Las Vegas in 2005, and its must-listen 2010s albums are War is the Answer, American Capitalist, and A Decade of Destruction.
Pounding beats and hard-to-forget synth melodies are what MGMT is all about. The band seamlessly blends electronic and acoustic instruments with great songwriting and lyricism. Formed in Middletown, Connecticut in 2002 by Ben Goldwasser and Andrew Van Wyngarder, their notable 2010s albums were Congratulations, MGMT, and Little Dark Age.
4. Vampire Weekend
Incorporating world rhythms and complex grooves into a masterful pop songwriting engine, Vampire Weekend captures the youthful, adolescent soul of pop music and has kept that alive throughout the 2010s. It was formed in New York City in 2006 by Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij, Chris Tomson, and Chris Baio, and its most notable albums of the 2010s have been Contra, Modern Vampires of the City, and Father of the Bride.
3. Tame Impala
This one-man project has managed to bring psychedelic pop to a modern audience in the 2010s. Tame Impala is the quintessential indie rock artist of his time, and it’s hard to believe it’s all done by one musician (except when on tour, of course). The project started in Perth, Australia in 2007, and its most successful 2010s efforts have been Sundown Syndrome, Innerspeaker, Lonerism, and Currents.
Next: The best songs about loneliness and feeling alone (our list)
It’s impossible to have had ears and lived in the 2010s without at some point encountering the music of Coldplay. Their masterful pop songwriting and melodic sensibility are backed up by soaring orchestration and arrangements. They were formed in London by musicians Chris Martin, Johnny Buckland, Guy Berryman, and Will Champion back in 1996, but their legacy was still going strong in the 2010s with albums like Viva la Vida, Mylo Xyloto, Ghost Stories, and A Head Full of Dreams.
Next: The best songs of all time (a list of our ultimate picks)
1. Arctic Monkeys
It turns out the British invasion never really ended—the top two spots go to bands from the U.K. And deservedly so: the defining rock genre of the 2010s was surely indie rock and the defining media environment was the internet, and the Arctic Monkeys were musical pioneers in both, in certain ways. Their riffs are synonymous with 2010s rock, like the ominous yet inviting phrase on the song Do I Wanna Know? (2013). The band was formed by Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Nick O’Malley, and Matt Helders in 2002, and by the 2010s they were taking control of pop music with albums like Humbug, Suck it and See, AM, and Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.
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As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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