With the 60th Grammy Awards upon us, it may be perfectly legitimate to rant about how ridiculous awards shows really are, about how they are all about preening and posing, and about how it’s hard to know what they really mean. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder famously accepted the band's only Grammy by saying exactly that—“I don’t know what this means…I guess my dad would liked it.” The truth is that awards shows don’t indicate much of anything about what music is truly the best, but they do show what the industry wants to legitimize. That said, the Grammys highlight the importance of music and musicians and occasionally the high quality of some things that aren’t over-played. This year, their nominations again show the world some of what we’ve been missing particularly in rock and alternative rock. Of course rock veterans like the Foo Fighters and Metallica are in there, but I am particularly excited about nominations for lesser-known veterans The National, Father John Misty, and Queens of the Stone Age, and for newcomers Kaleo, and Nothing More.
The National have been around for a while. Their album Sleep Well Beast is unmistakably The National. In fact, part of the reason this album is so deserving is that much of the contemporary alternative sound is derived from music they created almost two decades ago. Nominated for Best Alternative Album, Sleep Well Beast encapsulates the frenetic, the dark, and the introspective themes currently so prevalent.
Father John Misty, who also has been around for a while, has always created catchy songs. His Pure Comedy, also nominated for Best Alternative Album, is another hidden gem. Have we heard it on the air in North Carolina? No. But is it worth putting on repeat? Yes!
Queens of the Stone Age changed guitar driven alternative rock years ago by using harsh, syncopated rhythms and Josh Homme’s eerie voice to produce a dynamic and worthy listening experience. Villains is an album that typifies their sound and moves them forward. Less known than their musical cousins, the Foo Fighters, Queens may be one of the most influential bands you’ve never heard of.
Icelandic band, Kaleo, crashed onto American shores this year with their huge hit, “Way Down We Go.” It was a spare, dark sounding anthem that dominated alternative airways across the country. So it’s interesting that their Grammy nomination came for "No Good," a song that sounds a lot like Queens of the Stone Age—and it’s really good!
My personal favorite, though, is the band Nothing More. Their received nominations for Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Album—and they deserve all three. They sound like Muse (and therefore Queen) mixed with David Bowie mixed with Alice in Chains and they’re super. They aren’t played on-air very prominently and that’s why the Grammys deserve some gratitude this year.
Of course, by the end of the thing, folks will be checking to see what wins for Album of the Year. For what it's worth, and I know it's not our format, Childish Gambino is pretty super, but maybe my favorite record all year is Kendrick Lamar's Damn. Very few see equal beauty and grotesque of the world like Lamar. I hope he wins because his record will one day stand with the likes of Springsteen, Dylan, and Gaye.
Personally, awards shows bore me, but this year I might watch, if nothing else, to see what else I might have missed.