Rock music has evolved tremendously over the many decades, and that continued to be the case when the 2010s rolled around. With so many talented bands to choose from, it was no easy task to compile my list of the top rock bands of the 2010s. Nevertheless, here are my picks—do they match up to your personal list? Did I leave anyone out that shocks you? Take a look and feel free to comment below.
Rock Bands of the 2010s (Formed Pre-2010)
Let’s first begin by discussing some bands that originated before the 2010s, but were still making great music once the 2010s rolled around.
Rival Sons is a heavy blues rock band hailing from Long Beach, California. Their group formed in 2009, but this gritty group of gentlemen had a very active career between 2013-2019. After signing with their first label, Earache Records, in 2011, Rival Sons released their album Pressure & Time shortly after, which earned them a spot at number 19 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, as well as a number 1 spot on Amazon’s Hard Rock best sellers.
The addictive qualities of their 2nd album didn’t stop there. Rival Sons went on to release 4 more albums within the 2010s, multiple of which reached number one spots on Billboard’s Heatseeker Albums chart.
Rival Sons is the perfect band and for those who love a hard rock sound with an intense blues-rock vibe. Their heavy sound, paired with Jay Buchannan’s rough and robust vocals, pulls the listener into a rock and roll frenzy that is hard to escape once you’re in it.
One of my favorite songs, “Do Your Worst,” comes from their 2019 album Ferel Roots. This song is a great demonstration of the blues influence on guitar and piano, while showcasing Buchannan’s rich, heavy rock vocal range. I highly recommend it for a great first impression of the band if you’ve never listened before.
The Black Keys
Formed in 2001, The Black Keys originate from humble beginnings early in their recording career, but this original struggle only prepared the band for the inevitable success that awaited them in the 2010s. This bluesy rock duo began making their music out of vocalist Patrick Carney’s basement in Akron, Ohio using an eight-track tape recorder. The rough recorded original tracks gave their quality rock music a specific, grungy grit that gained them a cult following early in their career.
While the work put in from 2001-2009 only seemed to produce a trickle of financial success, The Black Keys would soon find themselves flooded with popularity when they release their breakthrough album Brothers in 2010.
Brothers earned the band global recognition, with platinum status in the US, double-platinum status in Canada, and gold status in the UK. As if that weren’t impressive enough, their music went on to earn multiple awards and recognitions with Rolling Stone, Spin, the Grammy Awards, MTV Music Awards, and Billboard Music Awards (just to name a few).
The success did not end in 2010. Between 2011-2015, the band released yet another successful album before taking a 5-year hiatus to work on personal projects. It was clear that fans were eagerly awaiting their return as their 2019 single “Lo/Hi” earned a number one spot on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart – a great milestone and a Black Keys’ first.
The addictive quality of The Black Keys proves timeless as their music maintains popularity in the 2020s. I highly recommend their song “Tighten Up” from their 2010 album.
A Day to Remember
Shifting gears away from bluesy rock for a moment, let’s take a step into the pop punk rock scene. Friends and folks, I give you A Day to Remember.
Hailing from Ocala, Florida, the heavy, emo-esque sound of ADTR has existed since about 2003. Their music career starts in 2004 during their first tour. Within that first year, the band only played 7 shows in total, during which they attempted to sell their self-produced EP to the underground rock show attendees, producing sparse revenue. However, if there’s anything rock bands of the 2010s have taught us, it’s that humble beginnings often fruit extremely successful futures.
Fast forward a few years. Following their 2009 release of their album Homesick, the pop punk rock band went on to tour in 2010 throughout the UK and North America, as well as performed at a music festival in Australia. Shortly after, the band released yet another banger album in November 2010 called What Separates Me From You. The release of this 4th album would not only put the band into top charting territory, but would also lead them to their national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live at the start of 2011.
ADTR’s career and popularity skyrocketed throughout the 2010s as the band released 3 more successful albums between 2010-2019, taking them from underground to mainstream in a short amount of time. They continue to feed their fans that undeniable metalcore “emo” flavor their fans adore, even today in to the 2020s.
Check out their song “All I Want” off their 2010 album What Separates Me From You for some classic A Day to Remember rock sound. Lead singer Jeremy McKinnon performs “All I Want” in heavy original and acoustic versions. I definitely recommend checking out both.
If you have access to FM radio, the internet, a TV, or literally anything the transcends music entertainment on this planet, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Imagine Dragons. This American pop rock band originated in Las Vegas, Nevada and has rocked (pun intended) the music industry for years, in the United States and across the world. Their story starts before the decade, but really kicks off after 2010.
Their Billboard Music Award winning studio album Night Visions, released in 2012, propelled this rock group into the mainstream limelight. Night Visions produced a handful of singles that reached top spots across charts with Rolling Stone and Billboard, as well as received global recognition and platinum status across different countries.
Following the release of their breakout album Night Visions, Imagine Dragons went on to release 3 more electric albums between 2015 and 2018. Imagine Dragons’ seemingly instant success after forming around 2008/2009 should serve as no surprise to anyone. The sound this rock band creates is not only extremely catchy, but the emotional lyrics, harmonious vocal blends, and complimenting instrumentals pair beautifully with a clearly articulated tempo. Oh, and you can’t forget the power pipes coming from none other than lead singer Dan Reynolds (hot damn).
For an excellent example of their ominous, spine-tingling effects, check out their song “Bleeding Out.” This song is true poetry wrapped in strong pop-rock blends that bring hope to the heart and a smile to the soul.
Highly Suspect is a grungy rock band from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Formed in 2009, the band released a handful of EP’s, but Highly Suspect didn’t see success in mass popularity until closer to 2015. The breakthrough Album? Mister Asylum. The breakthrough single? “Lydia.”
“Lydia” went on to bring the band mass recognition reaching a number 4 spot on the US Mainstream Rock Songs chart, and 24th on the US Alternative Songs chart, while the album itself peaked at 39 on New Zealand Album charts. Not only that, Mister Asylum and “Lydia” were both nominated for Grammys: one for the Best Rock Album, and the other for Best Rock Song.
Highly Suspect went on to release 2 more albums, The Boy Who Died Wolf (2016) and MCID (2016), and while their repertoire is a bit limited in comparison to the bands listed before them, Highly Suspect left their mark on the 2010s and beyond.
Highly Suspect’s flavor is considered a cocktail of alternative rock, grunge, and hard rock. One of my personal favorite songs that I think captures their unique sound is their song “16.” Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already heard it.
Rock Bands Started in the 2010s
While the 2010s proved to be prime time for the careers of existing bands, the same rings true for bands that started within the decade, such as Badflower, Beartooth, The Glorious Suns, Greta Van Fleet and I Prevail.
The music of post-grunge rock band Badflower first hit the scene when they started playing local shows around their home city of Los Angeles, California in 2011. When you live in Los Angeles, sometimes staying local is all you need to do to get started. After catching the ear of a few key players in the music industry, Badflower went on to sign with independent label Hundred Handed.
Badflower had a lot of rock and roll success almost immediately, selling out shows in the UK, performing at SXSW, and providing demo music for record label executive John Varvato during a show at New York Fashion Week.
With the debut of Apple Music and iTunes changing the way music is accessed for many Americans, Badflower’s EP Temper went on to earn Apple Music’s Artist of the Week title in 2016. In December of the same year, their song “Animal” peaked at 28 on Billboard Mainstream Rock charts. Shortly after that, “Animal” cracked 1 million plays on Spotify in early 2017.
Badflower is a perfect example of what it takes to make it as a rock band in the 2010s. A successful rock band not only needs the ability to create and perform great rock music, they also need the knowledge to adapt in an ever-evolving industry that lives through technology in a new age.
Check out their song “Ghost” for a great example of Badflower’s addictive sound, unique instrumental blends, and impressionable lyrics.
Turns out Columbus, Ohio can produce some pretty impressive rock sounds, and Beartooth is its rock band of the 2010s poster child.
After their formation in 2012, hardcore punk rock band Beartooth signed with Red Bull Records in 2013 giving their music recording wings (baddum tshhh). Between 2013 and 2018 Beartooth released 3 albums and 1 EP demonstrating extremely active recording years for the rock group.
While Beartooth was meant to be a for-fun side project for previous Attack! Attack! band member Caleb Shomo, by 2014 and 2015 the band was touring the US, Europe, and the UK.
Between 2014 and 2018, Beartooth reached Billboard’s Top 200 charts for their albums Aggressive, Disease, and Disgusting, clearly demonstrating how branching off from his original band was one of the best decisions he could make.
Check out their song “In Between” for a perfect example of the hardcore punk rock sound of this fantastic 2010s rock band.
The Glorious Sons
Thank God for Canada. Without which, we wouldn’t have The Glorious Sons. From Ontario, Canada, The Glorious Sons are a rock band that formed in 2011 and haven’t stopped making waves since.
With the release of their first EP after signing with Black Box Music in 2013, The Glorious Sons hit the ground running with promotional tours. In the same year, their song “White Noise” reached a number 2 spot on Canadian rock radio charts.
Throughout the 2010s, The Glorious Sons released 3 more albums, bringing their addictive rock sound on tour in the states towards the later half of the decade.
The Glorious Sons reserve a classic rock sound but dress it up with rough vocals and heavy guitar riffs. I highly recommend their song “Kill the Lights” off their 2018 album Little Prison City.
Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet is probably one of the more popular bands of the 2010s after their debut on Saturday Night Live in January of 2019. The slightly infamous performance went on to fuel memes and mockery on both TikTok and Reddit alike. But that very incident is what sparked fandom in many new listeners of this progressive/hard rock band.
Originally formed in 2012 out of Frankenmuth, Michigan, Greta Van Fleet started recording music right off the bat, laying tracks throughout 2013 and 2014.
In 2014, the band saw their first public appearance with their song “Standing Out” in Chevy Equinox advertisements around Detroit. After that, their song “Highway Tune” popped up on the Showtime series Shameless resulting in Greta Van Fleets first official single on iTunes in 2017. Popularity caught fire after that, earning the band multiple Grammy nominations in 2018.
It’s no surprise that this rock band from the 2010s kicked off with such intense spark. Each song produced by the band preserves a true rock and roll vibe, with vocals reminiscent of classic rock and 80s hair, and instrumentals infused with the blues-rock trailblazers that came long before Van Fleet was even a thought.
Greta Van Fleet is truly a beautiful mix of all the things that make rock and roll so addictive. Check out their song “A Change is Gonna Come” from their 2017 Album From The Fire.
Yet another product of the Michigan rock music scene, I Prevail is a post-hardcore rap-metal rock band from Southfield who formed in 2013. While I Prevail released their debut EP in 2014 called Heart vs. Mind, their popularity originally stemmed from their metal cover of T-Swift’s song “Blank Space,” which went on to earn platinum status in the US.
After their cover of “Blank Space,” I Prevail didn’t waste a minute, releasing their debut album Lifelines in 2016, giving the band a primary following based entirely on their own original artwork.
I Prevail went on to tour throughout 2016-2017, making an appearance on Vans Warped Tour, as well as performed at sold out shows around Australia.
Bigger, and even more substantial waves were made for the band in 2019 with the release of their album Trauma, which went on to to be the 4th best-selling album in the US almost instantly. Not only would their single “Breaking Down” off the album go on to award them a 10 seat on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Songs, but their song “Bow Down” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Performance. In addition to their two extremely successful singles, the album as a whole was nominated for a Grammy as Best Rock Album.
The name “I Prevail” certainly seems fitting for this rock band of the 2010s as their clear demonstration of musical determination earned them a spot in the hearts of listeners across the world.
I Prevail has been one of my favorite bands since I was in my early twenties (we don’t need to talk about how old I am now) and while I have many favorites by them, I highly recommend their song “Bow Down” if you’re looking for a song to really ignites those feelings of self-pride.
To the 2010s and Beyond!
As stated before, the 2010s were a wild time for many countries, industries, and people, and while the weight of the world felt heavy throughout the decade, one area that continued to develop in the best way was rock music.
With the development of online streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music, listeners across the globe gained unlimited access to rock bands of the 2010s like the ones I’ve listed above, and many other artists of different genres.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I loved writing it.