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…NMEs 100 Most Influential Artists: 100 – 51
In this week’s NME, we’ve listed the 100 Most Influential Artists today: a list of those bands who’ve inspired the current music scene. At number 50 it’s Sufjan Stevens. Sufjan has been pivotal in building the foundations of American alt-folk, his acoustic tunes rejuvenating Americana for the digital age. Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Wye Oak, San Fermin have all taken his lead.
49. Death From Above 1979. It’s no exaggeration to call DFA 1979 one of the great lost bands of the last decade. Their 2004 debut album ‘You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine’ delivered on both sides of the disco-punk hyphen, and they’ve served as the template for just about every noise-rock duo who’ve appeared in their wake.
48. Bat For Lashes. Khan is in many ways the proto-Florence, minus the vocal histrionics, and possessed of an unaffected, genuine embrace of spirituality. You couldn’t move for Bat For Lashes soundalikes in the year following the release of her 2006 debut ‘Fur And Gold’ and 2009 follow-up ‘Two Suns’. From Oh Land to Niki And The Dove to Austra, her influence has been pervasive.
47. The Cars. A young Brandon Flowers took a long drive with his brother, listening to The Cars’ greatest hits on the way, and the minute he hit adulthood he created the 21st-century equivalent. The Killers sparked the ’80s revival, and soon music that sounded like the soundtrack to John Hughes flicks was everywhere. Secretly, Ric Ocasek is at the wheel of 2014.
46. Wiley. Wiley’s status as the godfather of grime is well earned, but it’s crossover hits like ‘Heatwave’ and ‘Wearing My Rolex’ that seem most relevant in 2014. Almost everyone in the Top 20 – from Lethal Bizzle to Tinie Tempah, Katy B and Dizzee Rascal – has been inspired by the man they call Eskiboy.
45. T Rex. So Noel Gallagher nicked Marc Bolan’s superhuman ‘Get It On’ riff and turned it into ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, but Tame Impala’s ‘Elephant’ has Bolan’s signature guitar all over it too, and practically every band on California’s Burger Records views him as a messiah.
44. Bikini Kill. In the early 1990s, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and Tobi Vali started a fanzine called Riot Grrrl. The rest is history. The recent feminist punk resurgence, spearheaded by New York’s Perfect Pussy, has also seen the return of Hanna herself, fronting The Julie Ruin and now offering up party jams and love songs.
43. New Order. As the landfill indie age of the late 2000s has given way to the current Synthassic Era, the lingering scent of New Order has become overpowering once more. Every melodic dance act currently clogging up the Bestival line-up – Chvrches, La Roux, Major Lazer, SBTRKT – owes their career to Barney and co.
42. PJ Harvey. PJ Harvey has flitted between sounds so often that it’s hard to pin down her influence in purely sonic terms. Today, her real legacy is one of boundary demolition: the way she’s transformed the role of the singer-songwriter from confessional soul-barer to weird, wonderful chameleon.
41. Led Zeppelin. When Led Zeppelin electrified the blues music that had in turn inspired them, they set the stage for a whole raft of heavy-riffing rock music. But it’s not just the heavier bands – listen to ‘Trampled Underfoot’ and tell us you can’t hear Franz Ferdinand.
40. Tame Impala. Fact: roughly 96 per cent of all new bands formed in the six months after ‘Lonerism’ sounded exactly like Tame Impala. Their paw prints are all over Kasabian’s last two albums; Childhood, Temples et al are also indebted; and the Monkeys, Horrors and Noel Gallagher are all on record as being converts.
39. The Brian Jonestown Massacre. “How many imitators do I have? Why don’t they tell people who influenced them?” Anton Newcombe once asked, before adding: “They don’t because they’re self-serving fucking bastards.” Still, any band who walk the tightrope between success and chaos are following in Newcombe’s footsteps to some degree.
38. Dr Dre. When asked about the progress of Dr Dre’s long-delayed ‘Detox’ LP, Snopp Dogg suggested that Dre would not release the album until he was satisfied that minds would be blown. You can understand his hesitancy: from NWA through to ‘The Chronic’ and ‘2001’, to his assorted protégés (Eminem, Snoop, 50 Cent), the good doctor has defined the last three decades of hip-hop.
37. Kraftwerk. The sheer magnitude of Kraftwerk’s importance cannot be overstated. Their records serve as ur-texts for everyone who’s made music with electronic instruments since the 1970s, which essentially means that most modern pop, in one way or another, comes from them.
36. My Bloody Valentine. The gracious wafts of The Antlers? The space warps of Fuck Buttons? The fuzz blitzes of Cheetahs? The woozy bits of Horrors albums? Every time you hear a noise that makes you think someone must’ve tunnelled to the very centre of the earth to syphon it into the studio, that’s MBV spooning out your brain.
35. TV On The Radio. Like Radiohead, TVOTR are singular enough to sound like no-one else, and imitated enough to sound like everything else. Their eclectic, knowingly cerebral sound has been much copied but rarely equalled and in a genre that’s always been quick to resort to conservatism, TVOTR have done their bit to reintroduce a spirit of adventure and experimentation.
34. Depeche Mode. Any stadium-aimed rock sound that deals equally in mammoth synths and filthy guitar riffs can be traced back to Depeche Mode. Some of the current crop are less subtle in their approach to going full-on Mode, whereas others have taken their hedonistic approach to unquenchable melody mixed with abrasive production and upgraded it.
33. The Knife. Since 2001, this pair of Swedish electro siblings have broken many a rock taboo. They were faceless, hiding behind masks just as the information superhighway was demanding full disclosure, and their doomy electronic popscapes would rejuvenate interest in the dark melodic arts.
32. Pavement. “I was in a hamburger place in Portland – they were playing the Parquet Courts record and I thought it was Pavement,” Stephen Malkmus told Rolling Stone this year. You can forgive him for the error; slackers left in indie-rock across their 10 years together, bands have been copying their formula of dry-witted lyrics, jangling guitars and Gen X melancholia for years.
31. Bjork.Bjork is such a unique, idiosyncratic artist that her influence on popular music cannot be overlooked. It’s easy to see her as an outsider, all on her own, apart from the mainstream, but look a little closer and there’s a rich seam of influence that runs from her work. However, she’s still waiting for another artist to match the boundless ambition of ‘Biophilia’.
30. Bon Iver. When Justin Vernon unpacked his guitar, computer and mic in his remote cabin in Wisconsin and set about trying to work through the break-up and illness that had forced him to retreat from the world, he could have had no idea he was about to instigate an entire alt-folk mentality. ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ would spawn a legion of backwoods imitators.
29. Bruce Springsteen. The presence of Springsteen’s unabashed 1970s Americana can be felt everywhere, from the stadium stylings of The Killers and Mumford & Sons to The Gaslight Anthem’s grease-stained rockabilly and The War On Drugs’ galloping heartland rock. Such is his sway, it’s hard to name a contemporary rock act that doesn’t have a little bit of The Boss in them.
28. Pixies. Between their 2004 reunion and the release of 2014’s ‘Indie Cindy’, the Pixies did little besides trade on their legacy, but no-one could begrudge them for it: alternative rock as we know it today wouldn’t exist without their patented quiet-loud dynamic. Biffy Clyro, The Strokes, Wolf Alice, Drenge and The Orwells have all been influenced by Black Francis and co.
27. The Stone Roses. Big reunions tend to encourage a resurgence in the reunited act’s influence, and the return of these Manc legends has sparked a significant new rush of Roses-mania. Peace were ahead of the curve, while the likes of Superfood and Childhood have since lollopped in on a distinctly Squire-ish groove.
26. Fleetwood Mac. The Mac’s classic 1977 album ‘Rumours’ has become the LP to namecheck for any group trying to make it as a hot new indie band: Haim are the obvious example, but Yeasayer, St Vincent, Tame Impala and Best Coast have all recorded Fleetwood Mac covers, while Lykke Li, Lorde and Florence nabbed their floaty gypsy aesthetic from Stevie Nicks.
25. Nirvana. See it in the way Zachary Smith Cole from Diiv holds himself onstage and off; hear it in the mighty grunge riffs of Dahlia, The Vines, Wolf Alice and Royal Blood; feel it at the moshpit madness of a Kasabian live show; watch it in the way The Cribs have conducted their entire career with uncompromising DIY principles. The Seattle legends are everywhere.
24. Queens Of The Stone Age. As soon as you hear a Queens Of The Stone Age riff, you know it’s a Queens Of The Stone Age riff – it’s the way Josh Homme combines power with funk and searing sunshine. Royal Blood and Death From Above 1979 are obvious devotees, while Alex Turner has been inspired by the QOTSA in many different ways.
23. Burial. Next time you’re listening to a new ‘mystery producer’ online, it’s Burial who’s to blame. But how was producer Will Bevan meant to know that when he anonymously released second album ‘Untrue’ in 2007, it would kickstart a revolution of boys with laptops channelling two-step, garage, grime and dubstep into a distinctly British underground sound?
22. Sonic Youth. By rights, Merchandise frontman Carson Cox should have a shrine erected to Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon in his bedroom: new album ‘After The End’ has the same wig-outs, scraping guitars and weird experimental kinks mastered by Sonic Youth. Yuck, Veronica Falls and Warpaint are all similarly indebted, too.
21. Hole. Since the late 90s, Courtney Love has made the news more often than she’s made music – so it can be easy to overlook the fact that ‘Live Through This’ was one of the key texts of ’90s alt-rock. Love’s excoriating lyrics and attitude have been picked on by subsequent generations of musicians, and Hole’s importance cannot be denied.
20. Prince. Prince does it all: he writes, he produces, he’s never encountered an instrument he couldn’t master and he’s one of the world’s must-see live performers. He’s the man who taught indie bands how to be funky – most obviously Beck, but also Hot Chip, Jungle, TV On The Radio and Little Dragon – and his impact on hip-hop and R&B is even greater.
19. Neutral Milk Hotel. Though frontman Jeff Mangum slipped away from indie music after 1998 album ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’, his legacy grew in his absence. Somehow, by yodelling surreal songs about holocaust victims and deformed foetuses, he created the blueprint for a decade of anti-folk, invented Arcade Fire and set Beirut down the brassy Balkan road to enlightenment.
18. Aaliyah. Listen to ‘My Song 5’ by Haim or ‘Backseat Freestyle’ by Kendrick Lamar or ‘House Of Balloons’ by The Weeknd or ‘Hot Like Fire’ by The xx or anything by Drake, and you’ll realise that Aaliyah is more omnipresent than Yeezus himself. Aaliyah Haughton may have met an untimely premature death but her legacy continues to blossom.
17. Blur. By expanding their sound from 1997’s ‘Blur’ onwards, the Britpop legends managed to flirt with Radiohead’s new branch of electronic ennui with 1999’s ‘13’ and kick off the millennium’s afrobeat obsession on 2003’s ‘Think Tank’. Ever since, Blur have remained relevant to the new breed; Childhood, Superfood and Speedy Ortiz are all dedicated Blur-ites.
16. The Velvet Underground. Thirteen years ago, The Strokes sparked a revolution by ripping ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’ 11 times and putting out ‘Is This It’. In 2014 we have Fat White Family taking cues from Lou Reed’s shocking-at-the-time social commentary about smack, transvestites and S&M parties and turning it into a dissection of paedophilia, terrorism and extreme politics.
15. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers. The Modern Lovers’ influence stretches into new wave, post-punk and beyond. Many of the leading lights of the NYC garage-rock revival of the early-to-mid 2000s – The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Hold Steady – borrowed from them, and even LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy has spoken of Richman’s role in opening his ears to new things.
14. The Clash. Renowned for their ability to pick from a multitude of genres and infuse them with their punk sensibilities, The Clash took a magpie approach that continues to influence modern music. From the dubbier moments on Childhood’s debut LP ‘Lacuna’ to the genre-melding mixes of Jamie xx, their celebration of multiculturalism is reflected everywhere in the 21st century.
13. Joy Division. Pretenders have aped Joy Division’s sound, but they didn’t have the same spirit. Now, though, true heirs have arrived. Savages are similarly cold and austere, and Eagulls singer George Mitchell’s bug-eyed anxiety is cut from the same cloth as Curtis’s tetchy bleakness.
12. The Breeders. Of all of the bands lighting fires under the current grunge revival, it’s Kim Deal’s Pixies offshoot The Breeders, rather than all the standard Seattle grunts, that are spawning more imitators than an online dating app.The likes of Honeyblood, Wolf Alice and Menace Beach are fracking deep into their underground reservoir of saccharine sludge.
11. The Smiths. It’s pretty tough to imitate The Smith but as the first UK indie band to achieve serious mainstream success, they undoubtedly had a seismic effect on British pop music. When people talk about ‘indie’ – be it C86, Britpop or the current wave – they’re generally talking about something whose central tenets were laid down by The Smiths.
10. The xx. The xx are proof that it’s possible to invent new spins on old genres. Jamie Smith, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim invented an atmosphere entirely distinct to them; they became the voice of an iPod Shuffle generation who weren’t afraid to incorporate their wealth of musical passions, regardless of genre, into a deeply personal soundtrack.
9. Nick Cave. In 2014, Nick Cave is everywhere. He’s in Alex Turner’s swivelling hips, Chilli Palma Violets’ frenetic baritone bawls, Lias Fat White’s wicked glare and Dale Snakeheads’ seditious snarl. Eagulls, Iceage and Savages channel The Birthday Party’s nihilistic assault. For so long a figure prowling rock’s outskirts, Cave is reaching the peak of his insidious influence.
8. Kate Bush. Kate Bush pretty much created the archetype for mysterious singer-songwriters everywhere. Turn on the radio these days and you’ll hear echoes of her in the overblown production of Wild Beasts, the electro-celt inventions of Björk and PJ Harvey, the expansive wafts of Zola Jesus and in the dolphin-lunged vocals of Florence + The Machine or London Grammar.
7. The Gun Club. : “They play very intense blues punk and I don’t think anybody’s really done it like that since then. It’s incredible. People talk about how The Velvet Underground and how they weren’t popular but they influenced a bunch of bands. The Gun Club are the same way.”
6. The Flaming Lips. Whether full of light and colour on ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots’ and ‘The Soft Bulletin’ or dark and tormented with ‘The Terror’, The Flaming Lips were the band that made psychedelia look like an undated, still-potent musical force, and from which all modern psych sprang. Without them, there’d be no Tame Impala, Pond, Temples, Toy or Jagwar Ma.
5. The Strokes. The Strokes remain one of the major touchstones for modern indie. Were it not for them, there would be no Arctic Monkeys, no Franz Ferdinand, no Killers, no Libertines and no Cribs; and their ardent pace, Julian’s no-fi yowls and Albert Hammond’s high-end twangs can still be heard in Palma Violets, The Orwells, Parquet Courts and Twin Peaks.
4. The White Stripes. Ollie Walter, The Family Rain: “Anything we try to do that’s bold and fuzzy is definitely us trying to be The White Stripes. You’ve got that great initial place to start from and you can take it anywhere. The White Stripes bring a really solid backbone, it’s a really good building block in terms of being in a band – it gives you that first kick.”
3. Kanye West. As pop-culture catalysts go, no other 21st century figure has had the impact Kanye has had since storming into view with ‘The College Dropout’ 10 years ago. From the sunny soul-sampling of early singles like ‘All Falls Down’ to the futurist rap supernova that was 2013’s ‘Yeezus’, his career’s been a lesson in pushing boundaries and setting the agenda.
2. David Bowie. Of all the old guard, David Bowie is the guy who young musicians still namedrop with devoted regularity today. The sheer breadth and scope of his career – from the music-hall roots to his glam explosion, plastic soul period and krautrock experiments –has provided countless modern acts with their impetus to plug in and play.
1. Radiohead. Just as The Beatles came to embody the 60s, Thom Yorke is the artist who most clearly reflects our times. Nearly two decades ago he looked into the future and it weirded him out. ‘OK Computer’ and ‘Kid A’ laid the foundation for 21st-century music; one that cared not for reductive genre boxes but expected boundary-leaping experimentation from artists as standard.