An alternative rock band formed in 1986 in Boston, the Pixies drew on punk rock and surf rock and created a sound known for its “loud-quiet” shifts and unique song structures. While they broke up in 1993, they reunited in 2004 for a sold-out world tour.
They’ve produced seven albums, one certified gold, and one certified platinum. Song lyrics often include things like space, religion, sex, mutilation, and pop culture, and lyricist Black Francis has a noted obsession with characters from the Old Testament of the Bible.
Recommended Listening: The Pixies have plenty of catchy songs, but the best include “Hey,” “Where Is My Mind,” and “Debaser.”
Formed in 1967, Chicago originally went by Chicago Transit Authority. They're a self-described “rock and roll band with horns.” In 2008, Billboard ranked Chicago at number thirteen and fifteen in a list of the top 100 artists of all time (from 2008 and 2015, respectively).
Chicago has sold over 40 million albums in the U.S. alone and has produced twenty-three gold albums, eighteen platinum albums, and eight multi-platinum albums. In 1974, the group had seven albums on the Billboard 200 simultaneously.
Recommended Listening: Any of the “best of” albums are a good place to start. For studio albums, 'Chicago 17' is their best-selling album.
REO Speedwagon achieved significant commercial success throughout the eighties. As a traditional rock group, they did the classic five-man band with guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards. They've sold more than forty million records and have charted thirteen Top 40 hits.
Their first live show turned into a food fight. They got their name from a station wagon. They have had, to date, twenty-two band members. While the band's popularity has waned since the eighties, they remain a popular live act.
Recommended Listening: Their album 'Hi Infidelity,' released in 1980, is their most popular album, containing four US Top 40 hits, and has sold ten million copies.
Dream Theater broke out with their sophomore album 'Images and Words' in 1992, featuring the hit single “Pull Me Under.” The band pioneered the progressive metal genre, including sick riffs and intricate, memorable melodies.
Taking inspiration from anything and everything, they've done everything from soft ballads to twenty-four-minute epics. Dream Theater still produces new music and tours worldwide, but only two founding members remain in the band.
Recommended Listening: While 'Images and Words' is their most popular album, fans consider 1999's 'Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory' to be their best album. Really, it's hard to go wrong with any album.
Southern rock band, The Drive-By Truckers was formed by original members Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley in 1996. The band gained nationwide fame with their 2001 album, 'Southern Rock Opera,' which is a mix of sound effects (including a car wreck and a plane crash), mentions of teenage chastity belts and George Wallace, and just incredible music.
Once guitarist and songwriter Jason Isbell joined the band, they released a critically-acclaimed album called 'Decoration Day.' Drive-By Truckers went on to record darker, more hardcore rock music in the following years. Most of all, the Truckers deserve recognition because they gave life and pride to Southern rock while acknowledging the controversial past of their region.
Recommended Listening: When it comes to the Drive-By Truckers, you might want to stick to their first album, 'Southern Rock Opera.' Every song is a musical masterpiece.