The ’90s are back, and there’s no denying it. Luckily, it’s not just the fashion trends that are coming back into style — it’s the music, too. While many of the bands that gave us the sound of that decade are long gone, a new crop of young rockers are picking up where they left off and making their influence clear. What follows is a list of our favorites: 10 Bands That Make It Feel Like the ’90s Again (and make those years sound a lot cooler than they actually were).
On their sophomore release, ‘Attack on Memory,’ Cloud Nothings went from being the bedroom project of leader Dylan Baldi to establishing itself as a proper band. To accomplish this, they roped in famous ’90s producer Steve Albini (Nirvana
, the Pixies
) and explored a much more abrasive and emotionally open sound than heard on the Nothings’ pop-driven self-titled debut. There’s plenty of brooding to get lost in.
Mom & Pop
California skate-punks FIDLAR embrace the age-old themes of beer, girls and boredom. They might not be quite as silly as some of their influences, such as the Descendents, but musically, the same carefree, party attitude is alive and well. On their eponymous debut, they bring out a playfulness sometimes lost in modern music, all the while living up to the skater-fave acronym that inspired their name: F– it dog, life’s a risk.
Fuzzy guitars and a pinch of glam make the Smith Westerns a neo-’90s band by way of 1972. But make no mistake, these kids aren’t old enough to remember either of those decades. In fact, they were still in high school when they signed to Fat Possum for their debut album, ‘Dye It Blonde.’ Spiritually, they seem to embody the ’90s Britpop era, and ‘Varsity,’ the lead single from their forthcoming sophomore release, ‘Soft Will,’ holds plenty of promise.
Canadian noise-punks METZ go balls to the wall with their debut full-length. The frantic energy heard from start to finish feels like a nod to bands like the Pixies, the Jesus Lizard, and ‘In Utero’-era Nirvana. They’re abrasive without being doom-inducing and have fittingly found a home on Sub Pop. Listening to METZ recalls grunge in the early days, when it was all about caustic heaviness and menacing overtones.
Yuck are no strangers to creating songs that rely heavily on effects pedals. The male/female vocals add a little something extra to their brand of slackery shoegaze — one that should even impress ’90s OGs J Mascis and Stephen Malkmus. Their debut full-length is full of grungy guitar tension, and as any album reminiscent of the ’90s should, it features plenty of quiet/loud dynamics.
This young London band’s full-length debut, ‘Out of View,’ is cloaked in nostalgia. They’ve toured with and are often referenced in the same breath as Yuck, but the History of Apple Pie’s throwback indie jams are more likely to recreate the exact feelings that, say, a Dinosaur Jr. song might inspire. They’ve studied their ’90s indie rock and shoegaze and reappropriated it for today’s musical landscape.
With ‘King of the Beach,’ his first proper studio release, Wavves’ Nathan Williams teamed up with Modest Mouse producer Dennis Herring and made a ferocious, silly, sometimes psych-influenced album. It remains true to Wavves’ signature sound, but its less lo-fi and distractingly muddled than earlier discs, and that’s a good thing. Rather than go all-out skate-punk, Wavves know how to mesh sunny-day guitar thrashing with ’60s-style hooks.
King Tuff, aka Kyle Thomas, embodies a lot of genres at once; garage rock, neo-psych, pop and grunge are all heard on his eponymous 2012 release. While he’s able to channel all of his influences into a cohesive album, it’s the power-pop-driven songs like ‘Bad Thing’ that help make ‘King Tuff’ an easy summer listen.
What’s Your Rupture?
One listen to Parquet Courts’ ‘Light Up Gold’ will transport you to a time when the indie world was churning out jagged guitar licks in abundance. Lyrically, these dudes see everything through a slacker perspective, and many songs center on themes of everyday boredom. There are hints of the Feelies and Pavement throughout, but short and sweet earworm ‘Borrowed Time’ is one highlight that stands on its own.
Take riot-grrrl aesthetics and recontextualize them for an Internet-savvy world and you’ve got White Lung. On their latest release, ‘Sorry,’ the Vancouver band barrels through 10 songs in just under 20 minutes. For those who grew up in the ’90s, it’s hard not to hear hints of Courtney Love’s famous snarl in singer Mish Way’s blistering vocal delivery. The lightning-fast ‘Bag’ is one that should not be overlooked.