Indie rock

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Indie rock is a genre of rock music that originated in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1970s. Originally used to describe independent record labels, the term became associated with the music they produced and was initially used interchangeably with alternative rock. As grunge and punk revival bands in the US and Britpop bands in the UK broke into the mainstream in the 1990s, it came to be used to identify those acts that retained an outsider and underground perspective. In the 2000s, as a result of changes in the music industry and the growing importance of the Internet, some indie rock acts began to enjoy commercial success, leading to questions about its meaningfulness as a term.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily from the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly from a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.


Sometimes used interchangeably with "guitar pop rock", [1] in the mid-1980s, the term "indie" (or "indie pop") began to be used to describe the music produced on punk and post-punk labels. [2] Some prominent indie rock record labels were founded during the 1980s. During the 1990s, grunge bands broke into the mainstream, and the term "alternative" lost its original counter-cultural meaning. The term "indie rock" became associated with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status. [3] By the end of the 1990s, indie rock developed several subgenres and related styles, including lo-fi, noise pop, emo, slowcore, post-rock, and math rock. [3] In the 2000s, changes in the music industry and in music technology enabled a new wave of indie rock bands to achieve mainstream success. [4]

Independent music is music produced independently from commercial record labels or their subsidiaries, a process that may include an autonomous, do-it-yourself approach to recording and publishing. The term indie is sometimes used to describe a genre, and as a genre term, "indie" may include music that is not independently produced, and many independent music artists do not fall into a single, defined musical style or genre and create self-published music that can be categorized into diverse genres. The term ‘indie’ or ‘independent music’ can be traced back to as early as the 1920’s after it was first used to reference independent film companies but was later used as a term to classify an independent band or record producer.

Indie pop is a music genre and subculture that combines guitar pop with DIY ethic in opposition to the style and tone of mainstream pop music. It originated from British post-punk in the late 1970s and subsequently generated a thriving fanzine, label, and club and gig circuit. Compared to its counterpart, indie rock, the genre is more melodic, less abrasive, and relatively angst-free. In later years, the definition of indie pop has bifurcated to also mean bands from unrelated DIY scenes/movements with pop leanings. Subgenres include chamber pop and twee pop.

Punk rock is a rock music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as "proto-punk" music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent record labels.

In the early 2000s, a new group of bands that played a stripped-down, back-to-basics version of guitar rock emerged into the mainstream. The commercial breakthrough from these scenes was led by four bands: The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives and The Vines. Emo also broke into mainstream culture in the early 2000s. [5] By the end of the decade, the proliferation of indie bands was being referred to as "indie landfill". [6]

The Strokes American rock band

The Strokes are an American rock band from New York City. Formed in 1998, the band is composed of singer Julian Casablancas, lead guitarist Nick Valensi, rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., bassist Nikolai Fraiture, and drummer Fabrizio Moretti. Following the conclusion of five-album deals with RCA and Rough Trade, the band has continued to release new music through Casablancas' Cult Records.

The White Stripes American rock duo

The White Stripes were an American rock duo formed in 1997 in Detroit, Michigan. The group consisted of Jack White and Meg White. After releasing several singles and three albums within the Detroit music scene, The White Stripes rose to prominence in 2002, as part of the garage rock revival scene. Their successful and critically acclaimed albums White Blood Cells and Elephant drew attention from a large variety of media outlets in the United States and the United Kingdom, with the single "Seven Nation Army" which used a guitar and a whammy pedal to create the iconic opening riff becoming their signature song. The band recorded two more albums, Get Behind Me Satan in 2005 and Icky Thump in 2007, and dissolved in 2011 after a lengthy hiatus from performing and recording.

The Hives Swedish rock band

The Hives are a Swedish rock band that rose to prominence in the early 2000s during the post-punk revival. Their mainstream success came with the release of the album Veni Vidi Vicious, containing the single "Hate to Say I Told You So". The band has been acclaimed by music critics as one of the best live rock bands in 2012.


The term indie rock, which comes from "independent," describes the small and relatively low-budget labels on which it is released and the do-it-yourself attitude of the bands and artists involved. Although distribution deals are often struck with major corporate companies, these labels and the bands they host have attempted to retain their autonomy, leaving them free to explore sounds, emotions and subjects of limited appeal to large, mainstream audiences. [3] The influences and styles of the artists have been extremely diverse, including punk, psychedelia, post-punk and country. [2] The terms "alternative rock" and "indie rock" were used interchangeably in the 1980s, but after many alternative bands followed Nirvana into the mainstream in the early 1990s, "indie rock" began to be used to describe those bands, working in a variety of styles, that did not pursue or achieve commercial success. [3] Aesthetically speaking, indie rock is characterized as having a careful balance of pop accessibility with noise, experimentation with pop music formulae, sensitive lyrics masked by ironic posturing, a concern with "authenticity," and the depiction of a simple guy or girl. [7]

An independent record label is a record label that operates without the funding of major record labels. Many artists begin their careers on independent labels.

DIY ethic Self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert

DIY ethic is the ethic of self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert. The "do it yourself" (DIY) ethic promotes the idea that anyone is capable of performing a variety of tasks rather than relying on paid specialists.

Psychedelic rock Style of rock music

Psychedelic rock is a diverse style of rock music inspired, influenced, or representative of psychedelic culture, which is centred around perception-altering hallucinogenic drugs. The music is intended to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD. Many psychedelic groups differ in style, and the label is often applied spuriously.

Allmusic identifies indie rock as including a number of "varying musical approaches [not] compatible with mainstream tastes". [8] Linked by an ethos more than a musical approach, the indie rock movement encompassed a wide range of styles, from hard-edged, grunge-influenced bands, through do-it-yourself experimental bands like Pavement, to punk-folk singers such as Ani DiFranco. [9] In fact, there is an everlasting list of genres and subgenres of indie rock. [10] Many countries have developed an extensive local indie scene, flourishing with bands with enough popularity to survive inside the respective country, but virtually unknown elsewhere. However, there are still indie bands that start off locally, but eventually attract an international audience. [11] [12]

Pavement (band) American musical group

Pavement was an American indie rock band that formed in Stockton, California in 1989. The group mainly consisted of Stephen Malkmus, Scott Kannberg, Mark Ibold (bass), Steve West (drums) and Bob Nastanovich. Initially conceived as a recording project, the band at first avoided press or live performances, while attracting considerable underground attention with their early releases. Gradually evolving into a more polished band, Pavement recorded five full-length albums and nine EPs over the course of their decade-long career, though they disbanded with some acrimony in 1999 as the members moved on to other projects. In 2010, they undertook a well-received reunion tour, and will perform two 30th anniversary shows in 2020.

Ani DiFranco

Angela Maria "Ani" DiFranco is an American singer/songwriter. She has released more than 20 albums. DiFranco's music has been classified as folk rock and alternative rock, although it has additional influences from punk, funk, hip hop and jazz. She has released all her albums on her own record label, Righteous Babe, giving her significant creative freedom.

Indie rock is noted for having a relatively high proportion of female artists compared with preceding rock genres, a tendency exemplified by the development of the feminist-informed Riot Grrrl music of acts like Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, 7 Year Bitch, Team Dresch and Huggy Bear. [13] However, Cortney Harding pointed out that this sense of equality is not reflected in the number of women running indie labels. [14]

Bikini Kill American riot grrrl band

Bikini Kill is an American punk rock band formed in Olympia, Washington, in October 1990. The group consists of singer and songwriter Kathleen Hanna, guitarist Billy Karren, bassist Kathi Wilcox, and drummer Tobi Vail. The band is widely considered to be the pioneer of the riot grrrl movement, and was known for its radical feminist lyrics and fiery performances. Their music is characteristically abrasive and hardcore-influenced. After two full-length albums, several EPs and two compilations, they disbanded in 1997. The band reunited for a tour in 2019.

Bratmobile American punk band

Bratmobile was an American punk band. Bratmobile was a first-generation "riot grrrl" band, which grew from the Pacific Northwest and Washington state underground. It was influenced by several eclectic musical styles, including elements of pop, surf, and garage rock.

7 Year Bitch was an American punk rock band from Seattle, Washington that was active for 7 years, between 1990 and 1997. Their career yielded three albums, and was impacted by the deaths of their guitarist Stefanie Sargent and close friend Mia Zapata, of fellow Seattle punks The Gits.

Post-punk and indie pop

The Jesus and Mary Chain performing in California in 2007 Jesus and Mary Chain 2007.jpg
The Jesus and Mary Chain performing in California in 2007

The BBC documentary Music for Misfits: The Story of Indie [15] pinpoints the birth of indie as the 1977 self-publication of the Spiral Scratch EP by Manchester band Buzzcocks. Although Buzzcocks are often classified as a punk band, it has been argued by the BBC and others [16] that the publication of Spiral Scratch independently of a major label led to the coining of the name "indie" ("indie" being the shortened form of "independent").

"Indie pop" and "indie" were originally synonymous. [17] In the mid-1980s, "indie" began to be used to describe the music produced on post-punk labels rather than the labels themselves. [2] The indie rock scene in the US was prefigured by the college rock [18] that dominated college radio playlists, which included key bands like R.E.M. from the US and The Smiths from the UK. [19] These two bands rejected the dominant synthpop of the early 1980s, [20] [21] and helped inspire guitar-based jangle pop; other important bands in the genre included 10,000 Maniacs and the dB's from the US, and The Housemartins and The La's from the UK. In the United States, the term was particularly associated with the abrasive, distortion-heavy sounds of the Pixies, Hüsker Dü, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Dinosaur Jr., and The Replacements. [19]

In the United Kingdom the C86 cassette, a 1986 NME compilation featuring Primal Scream, The Pastels, The Wedding Present and other bands, was a document of the UK indie scene at the start of 1986. It gave its name to the indie pop scene that followed, which was a major influence on the development of the British indie scene as a whole. [22] [23] Major precursors of indie pop included Postcard bands Josef K and Orange Juice, and significant labels included Creation, Subway and Glass. [17] The Jesus and Mary Chain's sound combined the Velvet Underground's "melancholy noise" with Beach Boys pop melodies and Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" production, [24] [25] [ example's importance? ] while New Order emerged from the demise of post-punk band Joy Division and experimented with techno and house music. [26] [ example's importance? ]

Noise rock and shoegazing

The most abrasive and discordant outgrowth of punk was noise rock, which emphasised loud distorted electric guitars and powerful drums, and was pioneered by bands including Sonic Youth, Big Black and Butthole Surfers. [27]

SWANS, an influential band from New York can easily, but mistakenly, be categorised as noise rock, but are more correctly identified as part of the No Wave scene which included Lydia Lunch, and James Chance & The Contortions. These bands were documented by Brian Eno on the seminal compilation album No New York. A number of prominent indie rock record labels were founded during the 1980s. These include Washington, D.C.'s Dischord Records in 1980, Seattle's Sub Pop Records in 1986 [28] and New York City's Matador Records and Durham, North Carolina's Merge Records in 1989. Chicago's Touch and Go Records was founded as a fanzine in 1979 and began to release records during the 1980s. [29]

The Jesus and Mary Chain, along with Dinosaur Jr, indie pop and the dream pop of Cocteau Twins, were the formative influences for the shoegazing movement of the late 1980s. Named for the band members' tendency to stare at their feet and guitar effects pedals onstage rather than interact with the audience, acts like My Bloody Valentine, and later Slowdive and Ride created a loud "wash of sound" that obscured vocals and melodies with long, droning riffs, distortion, and feedback. [30] The other major movement at the end of the 1980s was the drug-fuelled Madchester scene. Based around The Haçienda, a nightclub in Manchester owned by New Order and Factory Records, Madchester bands such as Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses mixed acid house dance rhythms, Northern soul and funk with melodic guitar pop. [31]


Development: 1990s

Alternative enters the mainstream

Pavement singer/guitarist Stephen Malkmus Stevemalkmus(by Scott Dudelson).jpg
Pavement singer/guitarist Stephen Malkmus

The 1990s brought major changes to the alternative rock scene. Grunge bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains broke into the mainstream, achieving commercial chart success and widespread exposure. [3] Punk revival bands like Green Day and The Offspring also became popular and were grouped under the "alternative" umbrella. [9] Similarly, in the United Kingdom Britpop saw bands like Blur and Oasis emerge into the mainstream, abandoning the regional, small-scale and political elements of the 1980s indie scene. [32] Bands like Hüsker Dü and Violent Femmes were just as prominent during this time period, yet they have remained iconoclastic, and are not the bands that are frequently cited as inspirations to the current generation of indie rockers. [33]

As a result of alternative rock bands moving into the mainstream, the term "alternative" lost its original counter-cultural meaning and began to refer to the new, commercially lighter form of music that was now achieving mainstream success. It has been argued that even the term "sellout" lost its meaning as grunge made it possible for a niche movement, no matter how radical, to be co-opted by the mainstream, cementing the formation of an individualist, fragmented culture. [34] This theory hypothesizes staying independent became a career choice for bands privy to industry functions rather than an ideal, as the principle of resistance to the market evaporated in favor of a more synergistic culture. [34]

The term "indie rock" became associated with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status. [3] Even grunge bands, following their break with success, began to create more independent sounding music, further blurring the lines. [34] Ryan Moore has argued that in the wake of the appropriation of alternative rock by the corporate music industry that what became known as indie rock increasingly turned to the past to produce forms of "retro" rock that drew on garage rock, rockabilly, blues, country and swing. [35]

Indie electronic

Indie electronic covers rock-based artists who share an affinity for electronic music, using samplers, synthesizers, drum machines, and computer programs. [36] Less a style and more a categorization, it describes an early 1990s trend of acts who followed in the traditions of early electronic music (composers of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), krautrock and synth-pop. [36] Progenitors of the genre were English bands Disco Inferno and Stereolab. [36] Most musicians in the genre can be found on independent labels like Warp, Morr Music, Sub Pop or Ghostly International. [36]


By the end of the 1990s indie rock developed a number of subgenres and related styles. Following indie pop these included lo-fi, noise pop, sadcore, post-rock, space rock and math rock. [3] Lo-fi eschewed polished recording techniques for a D.I.Y. ethos and was spearheaded by Beck, Sebadoh and Pavement, [9] who were joined by eclectic folk and rock acts of the Elephant 6 collective, including Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power and of Montreal. [37] The work of Talk Talk and Slint helped inspire post-rock (an experimental style influenced by jazz and electronic music, pioneered by Bark Psychosis and taken up by acts such as Tortoise, Stereolab, and Laika), [38] [39] as well as leading to more dense and complex, guitar-based math rock, developed by acts like Polvo and Chavez. [40]

Space rock looked back to progressive roots, with drone-heavy and minimalist acts like Spacemen 3 in the 1980s, Spectrum and Spiritualized, and later groups including Flying Saucer Attack, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Quickspace. [41] In contrast, sadcore emphasized pain and suffering through melodic use of acoustic and electronic instrumentation in the music of bands like American Music Club and Red House Painters, [42] while the revival of Baroque pop reacted against lo-fi and experimental music by placing an emphasis on melody and classical instrumentation, with artists like Arcade Fire, Belle and Sebastian and Rufus Wainwright. Weezer's Pinkerton (1996) introduced the Emo genre to a wider and more mainstream audience. [43]

Proliferation: 2000s

Signs of commercial interest

In the 2000s, the changing music industry, the decline in record sales, the growth of new digital technology and increased use of the Internet as a tool for music promotion, allowed a new wave of indie rock bands to achieve mainstream success. [4] Existing indie bands that were now able to enter the mainstream included more musically and emotionally complex bands [44] including Modest Mouse (whose 2004 album Good News for People Who Love Bad News reached the US top 40 and was nominated for a Grammy Award), Bright Eyes (who in 2004 had two singles at the top of the Billboard magazine Hot 100 Single Sales) [45] and Death Cab for Cutie (whose 2005 album Plans debuted at number four in the US, remaining on the Billboard charts for nearly one year and achieving platinum status and a Grammy nomination). [46] This new commercial breakthrough and the widespread use of the term indie to other forms of popular culture, led a number of commentators to suggest that indie rock had ceased to be a meaningful term. [47] [48]

Post-punk revival

Arctic Monkeys vocalist Alex Turner and bassist Nick O'Malley. Alex Turner and Nick O'Malley Roskilde 2014.jpg
Arctic Monkeys vocalist Alex Turner and bassist Nick O'Malley.

In the early 2000s, a new group of bands that played a stripped-down and back-to-basics version of guitar rock emerged into the mainstream. They were variously characterised as part of a garage rock, new wave or post-punk revival. [49] [50] [51] [52] Because the bands came from across the globe, cited diverse influences (from traditional blues, through new wave to grunge), and adopted differing styles of dress, their unity as a genre has been disputed. [53] There had been attempts to revive garage rock and elements of punk in the 1980s and 1990s and by 2000 scenes had grown up in several countries. [54] The Detroit rock scene included The Von Bondies, Electric Six, The Dirtbombs and The Detroit Cobras [55] and that of New York Radio 4, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Electric Frankenstein, and The Rapture. [56] Elsewhere, the Oblivians from Memphis, [57] Billy Childish and The Buff Medways from Britain, [58] The (International) Noise Conspiracy from Sweden, [59] and The's from Japan, [60] enjoyed underground, regional or national success.

The commercial breakthrough from these scenes was led by four bands: The Strokes, who emerged from the New York club scene with their début album Is This It (2001); The White Stripes, from Detroit, with their third album White Blood Cells (2001); The Hives from Sweden, after their compilation album Your New Favourite Band (2001); and The Vines from Australia with Highly Evolved (2002). [61] They were christened the "The" bands by the media, and dubbed "The saviours of rock 'n' roll", leading to accusations of hype. [62] A second wave of bands that managed to gain international recognition as a result of the movement included The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Modest Mouse, The Killers, Interpol and Kings of Leon from the US. [63]

From the UK were The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Editors, [64] The Fratellis, Razorlight, Kaiser Chiefs and The Kooks. [65] British band Arctic Monkeys were the most prominent act to owe their initial commercial success to the use of Internet social networking, topping the charts with their debut single "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor". [66] Also successful were Jet from Australia, [67] and The Datsuns and The D4 from New Zealand. [68] Many of the British bands listed above, with the exception of Arctic Monkeys, experienced a sharp decline in commercial fortunes owing to what The Guardian has called the "slow and painful death" of indie rock. [69] In 2018, The Guardian's music critic John Harris spoke of the complete absence of guitar-driven rock from the music charts; and argued that a revival of the genre will most likely be from the rise of female groups. He wrote: “there is a sense that most rock musicians are running out of creative permutations, as if the possibilities offered by 12 notes and the 4/4 beat have all been used up.” [70]


During the 1990s a number of indie rock groups, such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Weezer, diversified the emo genre from its hardcore punk roots. A number of Midwestern emo groups started to form during the mid-late 1990s including The Promise Ring, The Get Up Kids, and American Football. Emo also broke into mainstream culture in the early 2000s, with the platinum-selling success of Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American (2001) and Dashboard Confessional's The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most (2001). [5] The new emo had a more refined sound than in the 1990s and a far greater appeal amongst adolescents than its earlier incarnations. [5] At the same time, use of the term "emo" expanded beyond the musical genre, becoming associated with fashion, a hairstyle and any music that expressed emotion. [71] During the mid-to-late 2000s, emo was played by multi-platinum acts such as Fall Out Boy, [72] My Chemical Romance, [73] Paramore, [72] and Panic! at the Disco. [74]

Landfill Indie

By the end of the 2000s the proliferation of indie bands was being referred to as "indie landfill", [6] a description coined by Andrew Harrison of The Word magazine, [75] and the dominance of pop and other forms of music over guitar-based indie was leading to predictions of the end of indie rock. However, there continued to be commercial successes like Kasabian's West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum (2009), which reached number one in the UK. [76] In 2010, Canadian band Arcade Fire's album The Suburbs reached number one on the Billboard charts in the United States and the official chart in the United Kingdom, winning a Grammy for Album of The Year. [77]

The 2010's and the rise of DIY

Rise of streaming services

With the release of the Jacuzzi Boys' second LP Glazin' in 2011, The Orwells' Remember When in 2012, and Twin Peak's Sunken in 2013, a new type of music was on the rise. DIY sprouted out of a necessity to adapt towards changing music tastes in the United States and Europe. With the creation of Spotify and other music streaming services, it has been easier for musicians to stay afloat by spreading their music across a massive potential audience. [78]

See also


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Britpop was a UK-based music and culture movement in the mid-1990s which emphasised "Britishness", and produced brighter, catchier alternative rock, partly in reaction to the popularity of the darker lyrical themes of the US-led grunge music, an alternative rock genre, and to the UK's own shoegazing music scene. The most successful bands linked with the movement are Blur, Oasis, Suede and Pulp; those groups would come to be known as its "big four", though Suede and Pulp would distance themselves from the term. The timespan of Britpop is generally considered to be 1993–1997, with 1994–1995, and a chart battle between Blur and Oasis dubbed "The Battle of Britpop", being the epicentre of activity. While music was the main focus, fashion, art, and politics also got involved, with artists such as Damien Hirst being involved in creating videos for Blur, and being labelled as Britart or Britpop artists, and Tony Blair and New Labour aligning themselves with the movement.

Grunge is a rock music genre and subculture that emerged during the mid-1980s in the Pacific Northwest U.S. state of Washington, particularly in Seattle and nearby towns. The early grunge movement revolved around Seattle's independent record label Sub Pop and the region's underground music scene. By the early 1990s its popularity had spread, with grunge bands appearing in California, then emerging in other parts of the United States and in Australia, building strong followings and signing major record deals.

Emo is a rock music genre characterized by an emphasis on emotional expression, sometimes through confessional lyrics. It emerged as a style of post-hardcore from the mid-1980s hardcore punk movement in Washington, D.C., where it was known as emotional hardcore or emocore and pioneered by bands such as Rites of Spring and Embrace. In the early–mid 1990s, emo was adopted and reinvented by alternative rock, indie rock and pop punk bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbreaker, Weezer and Jimmy Eat World, with Weezer breaking into the mainstream during this time. By the mid-1990s, bands such as Braid, the Promise Ring and the Get Up Kids emerged from the burgeoning Midwest emo scene, and several independent record labels began to specialize in the genre. Meanwhile, screamo, a more aggressive style of emo using screamed vocals, also emerged, pioneered by the San Diego bands Heroin and Antioch Arrow.

Hard rock is a loosely defined subgenre of rock music that began in the mid-1960s, with the garage, psychedelic and blues rock movements. It is typified by a heavy use of aggressive vocals, distorted electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and often accompanied with keyboards.

Alternative rock is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. In this instance, the word "alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream rock music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music. At times, "alternative" has been used as a catch-all description for music from underground rock artists that receives mainstream recognition, or for any music, whether rock or not, that is seen to be descended from punk rock. Although the genre evolved in the late 1970s and 1980s, music anticipating the sound of the genre can be found as early as the 1960s, with bands such as The Velvet Underground and artists such as Syd Barrett.

Alternative country, or alternative country rock is a loosely defined subgenre of country music and rock music, which includes acts that differ significantly in style from mainstream country music and pop country music. Alternative country artists are often influenced by alternative rock. However, the term has been used to describe country music bands and artists that have incorporated influences from alternative rock, indie rock, roots rock, bluegrass, neotraditional country, punk rock, rockabilly, punkabilly, honky-tonk, outlaw country, folk rock, indie folk, folk revival, hard rock, R&B, country rock, heartland rock, and Southern rock.

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British rock music

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