What’s in a band? We struggled over the question, and the questions that followed—is it more than two people? Does someone have to play an instrument? What’s an instrument, really? 

Here’s where we landed: you know it when you hear it. Some musical projects are clearly an execution of one mind’s vision, even when it takes a group to make it happen. And Adam Levine’s not all wrong—2021’s music industry is built for singular stars, iconic personalities. 

But he is mostly wrong. Plus, there was this snarky, pitying tone to how he told Zane Lowe, “I feel like there aren’t any bands anymore, you know?” that wrinkled my nose. He called bands a “dying breed.” Which, if you’re the lead singer of one of the previous decade’s biggest bands, is a self-own worthy of further discussion at therapy. The bands didn’t change, Adam Levine. You did.

We did set some ground rules: The bands on this list have no more than three full-length albums. They’ve all formed in the last five(ish) years, and have followings less than or equal to 1% of Maroon 5’s 52 million monthly listeners. They’re also not already hugely famous.

This list is mostly vocal-forward rock bands, a word worn so thin that it’s hardly helpful as a qualifier. But, generally: music you wouldn’t be surprised to find here. All apologies to my punk, noise, choral, and ambient instrumentalists. You are loved.

All these bands are at various exciting points in their careers, with uniformly bright futures in common. And they got here by building something great, together.

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