Influence is a fluid concept, so rather than simply tipping our caps to the legends (again), we set out to quantify which are the biggest influences on today’s music scene. Here’s our 100 Influence is a fluid concept, so rather than simply tipping our caps to the legends (again), we set out to quantify which are the biggest influences on today’s music scene. Here’s our 100…
In this week’s NME, we’ve listed the 100 Most Influential Artists today: a list of those special bands who’ve inspired the current music scene. At number 100 it’s Deerhunter: in the past five years, they’ve become chief executives of the US underground and every alt.hopeful from Alvvays to Parquet Courts have their sights trained on their sounds.
99. The Cure. “Goth band” – but were they? Alright, so Robert has worn his best Krusty slap since year zero, but much more than being mardy, he will be remembered as one of the greatest texture-makers in British music. Atmospheric was his middle name, whether that was upbeat or down, hence why he is a godfather to Mogwai and The Shins as much as Warpaint and The Horrors.
98. Yeah Yeah Yeahs. These days, Yeah Yeah Yeahs might be collaborating with gospel choirs but, in 2002, their visceral art-punk spirit set them apart from other bands populating NYC. It’s that spirit that’s evident in bands like Fat White Family, Perfect Pussy and Deap Vally – a confrontational, uncompromising approach and love of the pillars of rock’n’roll excess.
97. Iceage. There have been many brooding post-punk bands over the years, but few give the impression of inner turmoil like Iceage. Since their breakout in 2011, they’ve barely been off the road, honing their serrated roar in the world’s spit-and-sawdust venues with a procession of similarly boundary-pushing punk groups – Merchandise, White Lung and Eagulls – along for the ride.
96.Country Teasers. Fat White Family’s Lias Soaudi: “Country Teasers gleeful embrace of socially repugnant moral attitudes seemed to me like an honesty I hadn’t quite heard before. Bitterly satirical songs written in the first person from the perspective of racists and sexists, they seemed genuinely transgressive.”
95. Dirty Projectors. Experimental Brooklynites Dirty Projectors’ philosophy of drawing in musical influences from across the globe was a big influence on Vampire Weekend’s afrobeat (Ezra used to play saxophone for them) and then wormed its way into the minds of bands who were hellbent on reimagining the staid idea of ‘world music’.
94. Richard Hawley: “Someone call 999,” said Alex Turner as he raised the Mercury Prize for 2006, “Richard Hawley’s been robbed!” Turner went on to become a hard-rocking tribute to Sheffield’s crooner king, and Hawley’s 50s-modern aesthetic rubbed off elsewhere, too – the Manics’ ‘Rewind The Film’ was so indebted to his lugubrious romances that he seemed to guest on it by osmosis.
93. Black Lips. Wild, debauched antics are nothing new in rock’n’roll but Black Lips are the forefathers of a new charge of garage-rock hedonists. FIDLAR, Twin Peaks and more are picking up their squallid, lo-fi lead while the Atlanta band’s work with Mark Ronson is opening doors for bands like The Orwells to produce more polished, ambitious but still feral records.
92. St Vincent. An art-pop innovator with abrasive noise-rock leanings, Annie Clark has been making waves ever since her 2007 debut, ‘Marry Me’. Getting progressively weirder ever since, her futurist sound’s inimitable, but her daring attitude has been adopted by a growing number of her peers, from Cate Le Bon to Tune-Yards.
91. Foals Math rock had struggled to make any headway into popular culture before Foals arrived with ‘Antidotes’ in 2008. Guitar music found an intricate and beguiling new path in ‘Balloons’ and ‘Cassius’, and Foals begat not just their own Blessing Force scene in Oxford but a stellar explosion of ‘intelligent indie’ that still shows little sign of collapsing under its own mass.
89. Simple Minds. Early Simple Minds albums ‘Empires And Dance’ and ‘Sister Feelings Call’ were full of big, Berlin-influenced synthpop that resonates through The Horrors’ ‘Skying’, while their cheesier later moments infect The Killers’ ‘Battle Born’ and the vast array of slick 80s rock revivalists.
88. Oneohtrix Point Never. US producer Daniel Lopatin’s ground breaking work incorporates field recordings, swathes of synth and even the occasional Chris De Burgh sample (seriously, check out ‘Nobody Here’ online). At once both playful and esoteric while always moving, the producer has taken the innovations of Aphex Twin and adapted them for the 21st century.
87. Billy Bragg. One of the first artists to mix punk aggression with acoustic folk, Billy Bragg’s one-man act was also filtered through an unabashed regional pride for his beloved Essex. Decades later Jamie T’s South London and Frank Turner’s Winchester got the same treatment, while Green Day’s ballads wouldn’t have been the same without the influence of Bragg’s soppier songs.
86. The Triffids. Alongside Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and The Go-Betweens, The Triffids were at the vanguard of the literate Australian rock movement that broke through in the 80s. They were ambitious without being truly pop, and would find kinship now with the heart-on-sleeve likes of Arcade Fire and Noah & The Whale as well as Courtney Barnett’s louche indie rock confessionals.
85. Black Flag. While London was producing the Sex Pistols and New York The Ramones, California’s own take on punk was far more antagonistic. Heads of the West Coast hardcore scene, Black Flag’s brand of full-throttle aggression now seems to have had the most longevity, with a whole host of acts citing them as fiery inspiration.
84. Nine Inch Nails. Like most people trying to invent the future, Trent Reznor is right less than half the time. Which still puts him streets ahead of almost everyone else. And whatever the hit rate of his endless theories on the hinterland between music, tech and culture, his songwriting continues to dare dance to be darker, be it Factory Floor or Lust For Youth.
83. The Jesus And Mary Chain. Feedback. Bloody brilliant, innit? Particularly if it’s resounding around a dank basement in which some serious types are attempting to break the world record for the loudest Ronettes song ever played. Since TJ&MC perfected this formula with ‘Psychocandy’ in 1985, generation after generation have tried to rupture their ear canals in their honour.
82. Massive Attack. Massive Attack hated the term ‘trip-hop’, but the sound itself – a minimalist variant of breakbeat blended with elements of jazz, soul, R&B and hip-hop – was all their doing, and it’s still apparent in the sombre slow jams of FKA Twigs or the sparse, soulful ambience of The xx.
81. Animal Collective In one sense it’s difficult to pot Animal Collective as ‘influential’ innovators, because if you try and directly copy their sound, you end up with a melted splodge of hooting weirdo-rave. Their chief cultural imprint is as standard-bearers for a new wave of American music that has taken a risk on sound.
80. Dusty Springfield. A muse to writers and producers as diverse as Bacharach & David, Gamble & Huff and the Pet Shop Boys, Dusty Springfield was the white soul singer par excellence, her name forever mentioned whenever a new husky-voiced diva comes along, from flashes in the pan like Duffy to legends like Amy Winehouse.
79. Suicide Anyone with any pretensions to electronic art, from the synth duos of 25 years ago to the uncompromising current crop of Factory Floor and Grumbling Fur, wouldn’t be where they are today without Martin Rev and Alan Vega’s Suicide, the New York pair who lit up the late 1970s with their techno performance poetry.
78. Stevie Wonder With soul music seeping into every corner of music in 2014, it’s to the legends – Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and above all Stevie Wonder – that a new generation are turning for injections of swing, sass and sex and to give themselves a decent chance of getting laid through their music. Jungle’s ’70s sheen jigs and jives with Stevie’s ebullient charms.
77. Best Coast. Original? Nah. But every revolution needs a Che to put on its T-shirts, and Bethany Cosentino put herself in the right place, had a great way with a melody, and broadcasted her life through the right social media, in the process becoming the definitive pin-up for a generation of breezy three-chorders.
76. Vampire Weekend In 2005, afrobeat was strictly limited to Womad, Glastonbury’s West Holts stage, old hippy rockers and Damon Albarn side-projects. Then came Vampire Weekend, and suddenly every band was a part-time drum circle, fiddly high-pitched guitar lines were the new ‘singing like Ian Curtis’, and indie pop took on a far sunnier aspect.
75. The Wedding Present. The Wedding Present’s million-miles-an-hour jangle and whale-sized guitar roar has always been with us. but C86 has become increasingly en vogue of late, with the likes of Joanna Gruesome and Veronica Falls reviving the tormented indie thrash of singer David Gedge at his most recently dumped.
74. Slint. Slint’s entire recorded output amounts to two studio albums and an EP, but their importance to the development of post-rock is pretty much off the scale. Much of that importance rests on ‘Spiderland’, the second of those two albums, and a seemingly inexhaustible source of inspiration ever since
73. Wu-Tang Clan. For a band with such a distinctive sound, Wu-Tang’s most enduring legacy may actually be their impact on the music business. By using their releases to showcase individual members, who then emerged with solo LPs, Rza’s five-year plan for world domination couldn’t be bettered. Every rap group since with more than two talented MCs has tried to copy their template.
72. Grimes. Everyone from Lorde to FKA Twigs would struggle for context were it not for Grimes. She produced and recorded 2012 album ‘Visions’, her first for 4AD, on GarageBand in her bedroom during a non-stop, 48-hour hallucinogen assisted marathon and went on to direct her own music videos and even design gynaecological jewellery to promote its release.
71. Rilo Kiley. A cult concern made popular by US TV shows like The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, Weeds and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Rilo Kiley’s folk-pop can be heard in a host of recent bands including Waxahatchee, Best Coast and Haim.
70. Pharrell. ‘Get Lucky’, ‘Drop It Likes It’s Hot’, ‘I’m A Slave 4 U’… it’s hard to guess at the percentage of hits Pharrell is responsible for over the past 15 years. But beyond his current pop renaissance, it’s the gnarly production and soulful melodies displayed on N*E*R*D debut ‘In Search Of…’ that can be heard in the work of Chance The Rapper, Kid Cudi and Frank Ocean.
69. Nick Lowe. Lowe cut his teeth playing in pub-rock bands just as punk was kicking the UK into shape. Hooking up with Stiff Records, he produced works by Elvis Costello, Dr Feelgood and Graham Parker as well as releasing his own classics such as ‘I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass’. He’s been covered by The Strypes and hailed a sa hero by Public Access TV, and rightfully so.
68. The National. While Radiohead infused rock in the noughties with new miserablism and experimentation, The National have become their natural successors. Their quiet intensity is the lingua franca of serious rock music these days, ringing through the baroque stylings of Grizzly Bear, the grand emotions of The Antlers and even David Bowie’s 2013 comeback album ‘The Next Day’.
67. Jay Z. However impressively Jay Z brought new focus to hip-hop after a dicey ’90s, the real ripples of his influence are in his hard-nosed business achievements. From setting up his own label, Roc-A-Fella, to becoming boss of Def Jam, the Hov’s rise has been vertiginous and only continues. He blew open the parameters on what a rap artist could achieve.
66. The Slits. Mixing reggae influences, unconventional rhythms and playground chants, The Slits were punk’s great innovators. They reformed in 2005 before whirlwind frontwoman Ari Up sadly passed away in 2010, but not before a new generation of acts from Savages to Perfect Pussy had soaked in their cultish passion.
65. Diplo Pinning Diplo down to a snappy soundbite is near-impossible. This is a man who has worked with both Usher and Rolo Tomassi. Between his own mixtapes, work with Major Lazer and production duties covering pop, hip-hop and hardcore, Diplo’s involvement tends to mean an artist is about to blow up. Where he goes, others follow, and all of them are dancing.
64. The Zombies. Paul Weller says: “The Zombies made one of the all-time greatest records in ‘Odessey And Oracle’, but all of the albums that get some kind of recognition from that period, they always seem to get overlooked. The first time I heard it was in the mid-70s, and it just blew my mind… It made a big impression.”
63. Talk Talk. Let’s be clear which Talk Talk we’re, um, talking about here: from 1982 to 1987, Mark Hollis’ group were a serviceable synth-pop outfit, but after 1987 they became something else entirely, recording two bold and beautiful uncommercial art-rock albums – ‘Spirit of Eden’ and ‘Laughing Stock’ – that have inspired These New Puritans, Sigur Rós and Radiohead.
62. The Stooges. Iggy and his Stooges are not just in the squealing thrash noise that forms the root of melodic garage and hardcore music today – Fucked Up, Gallows, Black Lips, Radkey, Goat – they’re in every single garage-punk maniac flinging themselves off speaker stacks in the name of enterpainment. We’re looking at you, Honor Titus.
61. DJ Shadow. He’s not exactly been prolific in the past 15 years, but DJ Shadow’s endlessly shifting broken-up breakbeats are still there in everything chunky but funky you’ve heard since. In the same way that Hoover is a brand of vacuum cleaner, DJ Shadow’s beats have gone way beyond the man who invented them and turned into a genre in themselves.
60. DJ Rashad. A highly evolved strain of house music refined on Chicago’s dance-battle scene, footwork is hyper-quick and naggingly repetitious, built from pumping drum machines and heavily diced vocal samples – and the late DJ Rashad was a master of the form. Tragically, he passed away in April following complications with a blood clot in his leg.
59. Chic. Along with his Chic bandmate Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers defined disco and played a key role in the birth of hip-hop (‘Rapper’s Delight’ was based around a sample of Chic’s ‘Good Times’). Then of course there’s Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’, which wasn’t just some LP he took a session job on; it was a record that could not have existed without Rodgers’ music.
58. Black Sabbath. Over on the beefier end of music’s spectrum, the Prince Of Darkness still reigns. Newcomers Royal Blood and The Wytches have adopted their dark aesthetic, and Alex Turner might not be biting the heads off bats yet but Sabbath’s heaving riffs are all over ‘AM’. Which is something the Monkeys have given a nod to, covering ‘War Pigs’ in their set.
57. James Blake. Blake’s influence on modern music is difficult to understate. He opened up the slow, brooding dubstep productions being made by the likes of Burial with his own jazz, gospel and soul influences. In turn, everyone from Chance The Rapper to FKA Twigs, SBTRKT and even London Grammar wanted to capture the essence of his sound.
56. Happy Mondays. Happy Mondays were the real progenitors of the Madchester scene, bringing loping, messy funk grooves into the indie scene as early as the mid-’80s. It’s a template that’s continued to inspire similarly saucer-eyed bands ever since, although none can quite match Shaun Ryder’s madcap lyrical genius, once compared by Factory boss Tony Wilson to the poet WB Yeats.
55. The Chills. Used by everyone from Sly & The Family Stone to Pink Floyd, the Farfisa organ is the place where psych meets funk. But things got really interesting in the early 80s when The Chills started experimenting with it, and you only have to hear Palma Violets’ keys man Pete Mayhew or The Shins to see how that model has been honed in recent years.
54. Aphex Twin. Electronic music’s most notorious agitator, Richard D James may have fallen off the radar recently (he hasn’t released an official album since 2001’s ‘Drukqs’) but his DNA remains starkly visible in dance, pop and rock’s current breed of noisy provocateurs.
53. The Fall. Mark E Smith. One man, maxed-out on beat poetry and punk snarl, rotates a cast of more than 60 musicians around him since forming The Fall in 1976, and captures the sonic equivalent of abstract expressionism every time. Everyone from Elastica to Franz to Liars has bathed in his wisdom since, and Sleaford Mods are currently updating his schtick for the laptop era.
52. Nas. Blessed with the storyteller’s gift, unrivalled flow and a nose for a killer beat, Nas was an instant legend from the moment he released debut LP ‘Illmatic’ in 1994. He’s a touchstone for disciples like Rick Ross and Mos Def, a deity to both conscious and gangsta rappers, and was even immortalised in Amy Winehouse’s ‘Me And Mr Jones’.
51. Television. Television were not your typical CBGB band: they wrote long, complex, lyrical songs and played them with a high degree of proficiency. Their sound has found its way into everyone from The Strokes to Interpol to Franz Ferdinand to Arctic Monkeys.