ince the turn of the century, the biggest change in music has centered on indie rock, which is a close cousin of alternative rock. The genre itself contains a wide array of artists, but what they share is a lack of corporate promotion or air play on rock radio stations.
The Grammy Awards finally gave some recognition to alternative rock, designating an award for “Best Alternative Album.” Last year, St. Vincent took the award for her self-titled release.
A further indication of the importance of alternative music can be found by simply looking at the Grammy committee’s choice for “Album of the Year,” Morning Phase by Beck. He was in fact one of the pioneers of indie rock, having broken onto the scene shortly after the death of Kurt Cobain and the grunge movement.
Still, this popular genre is sadly underrepresented by the Grammy committee, who has limited it to just the one category. That is the same number given to niche genre like bluegrass, contemporary Christian, gospel, reggae, and spoken word.
If rap, country, and blues deserve as many as five categories each, surely the Grammy committee can afford to add a second award to alternative. The most sensible solution would be to have an award for “Best Alternative Song,” and here are examples of what the year by year list might look like since the start of the century.
2001 “Last Night” by the Strokes
This group brought a resurgence of guitar rock with their debut album, Is This It?
2002 “Heavy Metal Drummer” by Wilco
A few years after the demise of Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy struck gold with this gem from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
2003 “Hackensack” by Fountains of Wayne
Bittersweet lyrics backed by a gorgeous acoustic guitar make this the true treasure from Welcome Interstate Managers.
2004 “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand
This Brit quartet and its self-titled debut gave alternative rock an element you could dance to.
2005 “Trouble with Dreams” by Eels
Mark Oliver Everett, who refers to himself as E., finally broke through with this song and the entire four sides of Blinking Lights.
2006 “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)” by the Flaming Lips
Wayne Coyne served as one of the pioneers of indie/alt rock as a colleague of Beck, and he even makes a fun political statement on this tune from At War with the Mystics.
2007 “Heat Dies Down” by Kaiser Chiefs and “The Underdog” by Spoon
It is impossible for me to choose which of these tunes is the best because of the former’s catchy rock beat and the latter’s acoustic guitar spiced with brass.
2008 “Pop Lie” by Okkervil River
Will Sheff has kind of become a modern Morrissey with his baritone and his cleverly biting lyrics, especially on this tune from The Stand Ins.
2009 “Love That Never Was” by the Minor Leagues
This Cincinnati-based band has never quite reached national prominence, but they did manage to write the best unrequited love song of the 21st century.
2010 “Write about Love” by Belle and Sebastian
This title track highlights the ten-year career of Stuart Murdoch’s acoustic rock band.
2011 “Houdini” by Foster the People
“Pumped Up Kicks” made the group a household name, but this album mate better represents their overall sound.
2012 “Teardrop Windows” by Ben Gibbard
Taking a break from Death Can for Cutie proved to be a great move, as proved by this track and the rest of the Former Lives solo album.
2013 “Oh Brother” by Frank Turner
After a career in a stellar punk rock group, the singer-songwriter adopted a more mainstream approach for Tape Deck Heart, and the result can be found in this tune.
2014 “The Ex of All You See” by Old 97s
Rhett Miller warns her new man about his ex-girlfriend’s fickleness in this catchy eerier from the otherwise unremarkable All Messed Up.
2015 “Do It By Myself” by Guster
A decade and a half into their indie career, this quartet continues to amass great pop-rock tunes like this one from their latest album, Evermotion.