Rock music has existed for roughly 70 years, and it’s been subjected to countless methods of experimentation and expansion along the way. Thus, it can be difficult for modern bands to bring something genuinely new and commendable to the table.
Or so it may seem. Sure, the artform has ostensibly seen it all by now: massively complex and lengthy song structures, inventive genre fusions, ambitious narrative frameworks, madcap visual accompaniments, etc. Yet, the challenge of discovering fresh ways to innovate and fascinate only serves to push certain visionaries’ creativity further.
Case in point: the following ten groups, each of whom has continually thought outside the box over the last decade. Be it through multi-album story arcs, ingeniously modern stylistic mashups, resourcefully sprawling packaging, live theatrics, and/or some other form of forward-thinking expression, these acts undoubtedly took rock music to some truly daring, elaborate, and unique places during the 2010s.
Obviously, a few of these bands were doing imaginative things much earlier; however, they absolutely sustained - if not developed and increasingly popularized - those idiosyncrasies across that time period, so they deserve a spot on this list.
10. The Flaming Lips
Neo-psychedelic/post-punk troupe The Flaming Lips have always been immensely original and boundary-pushing.
From the eye-catching variety of their earliest album covers and the four-CD, multi-stereo requirement of 1997’s Zaireeka, to 2002’s existential sci-fi opus Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and 2009’s collaborative reimagining of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, they’ve never been short on audacious ideas.
That said, they surely upped the ante in recent years. For instance, there was The Soft Bulletin: Live la Fantastique de Institution 2011, a live-in-studio rerecording of their 1999 LP that was only available via a flash drive held within a marijuana-flavored brain that came in a strawberry flavored gummy skull. There was also Strobo Trip - Light & Audio Phase Illusions Toy, a toy box housing a stroboscope and a six-hour-long composition (I Found a Star on the Ground).
Their proper studio albums saw plenty of stylistic freedom, too. 2013’s The Terror offered an affectively abstract representation of loneliness and heartache, while 2020’s American Head tapped into their Americana roots. Also, their on-stage antics were proudly eccentric, such as with 2017’s confetti-filled headlining show at Glastonbury.
Unsurprisingly, those examples only scratch the surface of the Lips’ modern peculiarities and risks.