Expanding your music: alternative edition


For generations, music has served to unite the world through the comfort, inspiration and community it provides. At Naperville North High School, music is an integral part of the daily lives of its students and staff—permeating hallways, classrooms and earbuds. Everyone has their own taste. However, it’s important to diversify one’s consumption of music and introduce new genres and styles to daily listening habits.

The alternative genre of music emerged in the 1970s and became increasingly popular in the 90s. The name “alternative” was a reference to the difference between the genre and mainstream music. Simply put, it is an independent homage to punk-rock of the late 70s. Alternative music gained popularity from independently-produced music from lesser-known bands being played on college radio stations and shared through word of mouth. The fame of Nirvana and British pop gave alternative music more recognition in the U.S. with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” being the number one alternative song today. To follow in the footsteps of music listeners in the 1990s, here are a few of our alternative album recommendations to help you broaden your music taste.

“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” by Arctic Monkeys (Bella)

“The Ultracheese” by Arctic Monkeys is my favorite song of all time. Not many people are able to answer that question confidently, but “The Ultracheese” is unbeatable to me. Its comforting lyrics and energy is especially unique and something unheard of from the band. “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino,” the album on which “The Ultracheese” is housed, was the first vinyl I ever received and I could not stop listening. From morning bus rides to afternoon naps, “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” has long- occupied my ears.

To me, “The Ultracheese” represents lead singer Alex Turner’s journey through his past 20 years in the music industry, the goodbyes he’s had to make and the memories he keeps with him. This message is evident in the opening line “Still got pictures of friends on the wall, I suppose we aren’t really friends anymore.” It reminds me of the goodbyes and new beginnings you have to make when pursuing your dreams or a new career. The ups and downs that come with an industry so difficult to be successful in and how the only thing that drives this passion is the love for music. The final line of the song, “but I’ll never stop loving you,” takes this idea into the perspective of Turner’s love for music and how he has to continue to remind himself of such. 

“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” was released in 2018 and was the follow-up of Arctic Monkeys’ most popular album “AM.” “AM” has been listed as their most popular album and one of the greatest alternative albums of the 2010s. Their follow-up album gives a classic, speakeasy vibe which stands out from the band’s other albums. “Star Treatment” is another key song on the album, which showcases Turner’s range in vocals. Band members Jamie Cook, Matt Helders and Nick O’Malley are present on the album, but vocally toned down which enunciated the strong vocals, and the instrumentals are unique from their typical heavy alternative rock. All of this contributes to the vibe and aura of this album, and its uniqueness in the alternative genre, which makes it stand out from their previous projects. 

If you enjoy psychedelic music, this album is for you. Between songs like  “The Ultracheese,” “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip” and “Batphone,” “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” feels like Arctic Monkeys drifted from their alternative rock days and fell into the psychedelic pop that has become iconic to their name.

If you enjoy “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” or any album by Arctic Monkeys, I recommend checking out The Killers, The Strokes or Radiohead. 

“The New Abnormal” by The Strokes (Sarah) 

The Strokes are a timeless band. When they released their debut album “Is This It?” in 2001, they experienced a rapid rise to fame. Since then, the band has changed the alternative genre. Several years after the release of their least successful record “Comedown Machine,” The Strokes released “The New Abnormal” in April of 2020. The album saw phenomenal success, winning Best Rock Album at the 2021 Grammys (the band’s first-ever Grammy). The album conveys a sense of nostalgia. The New York Times described it as having “full-bodied sounds of the 1980s.” The Strokes do an excellent job of maintaining their consistent style while also making each of their albums unique and enjoyable. 

I remember clearly when the album came out. It was about a month into quarantine and all I seemed to be doing at that point was listening to music. To distract from my boredom, I began a daily habit of listening to a new album every day. When I saw that The Strokes had just released a new album, I immediately put my earbuds in and began to listen. The songs brought me back to why I love their first album “Is This It?”. 

This album helped me keep a positive mindset during the pandemic; the time in our lives when it was difficult to see the good around us. To me, this album is warm summer days, driving with all the windows down on the freeway and blaring the chorus through my car speakers. Who wouldn’t want to be reminded of that in the middle of February?

I could argue all day why “The Adults Are Talking” is one of the best songs ever. This five-minute song’s smooth high and low verses capture my full attention with every replay. With every minor detail from the low, heavy bass to the vibrant guitar chords in the background, The Strokes have constructed a masterpiece. They have many more repeat-worthy songs on this album including “Why Are Sundays So Depressing?” and “Bad Decisions.” If you like one, you’re bound to enjoy them all.

This album will forever hold a special place in my heart for its beautiful craft and dramatic uprise from their previous project. If you’re looking for more timeless bands to add to your playlist, I’d recommend listening to The Cure, Vampire Weekend and Modest Mouse. 

“It Won’t Always Be Like This” by Inhaler (Maxie)

The first time I ever heard Inhaler’s music was on an Instagram Reel that I happened to scroll through. As an avid listener of alternative music, it was inevitable that I would fall in love with them. Being from a family who loves U2, having one of Bono’s sons as Inhaler’s lead singer means not only do I enjoy it, but has made my dad an even bigger fan than me. 

While a debut album can be a hit or miss for many musicians, Inhaler ensured their first studio album would make a statement for them. “It Won’t Always Be Like This” was released in 2021 which peaked #1 in Ireland and the United Kingdom and became the fastest-selling vinyl from a band in the 21st century. In addition to their own U.S. and European tour last year, they’ve been featured at popular music festivals like Lollapalooza and Glastonbury and have opened for famous artists such as Harry Styles and the Arctic Monkeys.  They’ll be touring again this year for their highly-anticipated album titled “Cuts & Bruises” which was released on Feb. 17.

I can confidently say that since first listening to this album, Inhaler has become one of my all-time favorite bands. The thrill I get blasting their music in my car, walking through the hallways at school or casually listening to it in my room reaffirms the versatility of this album. You can easily picture yourself in a music venue, hearing live music because it reminds you of a stereotypical, local garage band only seen in the movies (except it’s not only in the movies).

The vocals, sung by lead singer Elijah Hewson, are a highlight of this album. With the familiar, deep and raspy voice reminiscent of his father’s, Bono, Hewson’s vocal versatility is dominating, and you feel captured within the melody. A prime example of this is from one of my favorite songs on the album, “My King Will Be Kind,” which showcases his impressive vocal range. You’ll notice a shift from the mellow melody of the verses to a belty, punk-rock chorus that easily resembles a classic rock beat. 

Inhaler perfectly encapsulates classic rock mixed with modern instrumentation that truly sets them apart from other alternative bands I’ve listened to. Some of my favorite songs on the album are “My Honest Face,” “Cheer Up Baby” and “Slide Out The Window.” 

Whether you find yourself head-bopping to the strong vocals, upbeat melody or punk instrumentals, Inhaler has made a name for itself that many can enjoy listening to.

If you were rocking out to “It Won’t Always Be Like This,” I recommend giving a listen to Greta Van Fleet, The Criticals and Cage The Elephant.

Here is a link to our top 3 alternative songs from these albums and one for our favorite alternative songs.