There’s a reason why “dad rock” is so often used as a derogatory term by music critics. Indie Rock just doesn’t seem to age very well. For the artists below however, 40 has proven to be a ‘just another decade.’ These are 8 bands still making interesting, relevant art in their 40s and beyond.
Stars: Stars just keep doing their thing. Though they may never surpass their 2004 masterpiece Set Yourself on Fire, the Montreal-based indie pop dramatists have continued to add excellent work to their considerable musical canon. After 2012’s upbeat LP The North—one of their best offerings in years—anticipation is high for whatever is next. Stars enter the studio to start work on their eigth album this month.
The National: Success didn’t come fast for this quintet, but perseverance, brotherly love (the band is composed of two sets of brothers) and a stream of great albums, finally took them over the top in 2010 when their release High Violet earned them a place on several high-profile year-end best of lists. Since then, they have only further cemented their place upon indie-rock mount Olympus. Muscular, atmospheric and ever anchored by the ragged baritone and Springsteen-earnestness of Matt Berninger, The National is in undoubtedly still in their prime.
Pharrell: It may come as a surprise to some, but Pharrell is now in his fifth decade of life. The baby-faced Renaissance man has been producing (as one half of The Neptunes), rapping, and singing that signature falsetto since the 90s, but never has he found as much success as this part year. Hot off mega-collaborations with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, Pharrell released GIRL in December of 2013—his first solo album in eight years—to critical and commercial success.
Beck: Since bursting on the scene in 93’ with the single “Loser” (a potent mixture of lo-fi hip hop and blues), Beck has been consistently putting out challenging, critically lauded work with a healthy dose of radio hits sprinkled throughout. After a six-year break from recording as Beck, the once homeless musician from New York’s anti-folk scene returned this February with another excellent LP Morning Phase.
Radiohead: As long as Radiohead keeps making music, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be better than anything else happening at the time. With Thom York and the gang now in their mid-40s, members have been focusing more and more on projects outside the group (Atoms for Piece for Thom, movie scoring for Johnny Greenwood). Make no mistake though; they are still on another level.
Sun Kil Moon: Mark Kozelek may never become a household name like his good friend Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service), but he has more than earned a reputation as one of the most talented and unique solo artists of the past 20 years, cultivating a diehard community of fans in the process. A remarkable poet, with underrated guitar chops and unparalleled ability to communicate sadness (as well a wide range of other complex emotion) through music, Kozelek’s 40s have proven a surprisingly fecund period. If you like Elliot Smith, Chad Van Gaalen or good acoustic-based music in general, give Sun Kil Moon a try.
The Flaming Lips: Wayne Coyne and the gang have been rocking out in giant see-through balls and face paint for a hot minute now. Wildly experimental but with just the right amount of poppy pay-off, The Flaming Lips have only seemed to grow as creators in the last decade. After 2009’s brilliant full-length Embrionic the band found new life as kings of the far leftfield, indie avant-gardist scene. Releases since, have been equally terrific.
Nick Cave: At 56, Cave is the senior Patriarch of the list. He certainly does not lack for energy though. Now celebrating at least his 30th consecutive year as the coolest dude in alt music, the Australian born playwright, actor, and rock n’ roll orator, has (instead of resting on his laurels) spent his 50s experimenting with new sounds and genres. Traditionally a pianist, Cave thought he’d teach himself guitar seven years ago to better soundtrack his ferocious new project Grinderman. The results were typical Nick Cave: catchy, gauche, and ultimately deeply satisfying.
Honourable Mentions: Queens of the Stone Age, Jason Collett, Cat Power, Spoon, David Bowie