Why They’re Here: Punk-pop rarely gets as crafty or ambitious as this Wisconsin trio, who spike their churning crunch with unexpected chord changes and jarring melodic segues; of 2015’s sprawling the New York Times accurately said, “Every song is a puzzle.”
Why They’re Not Higher: Even with one of the year’s best rock albums inside of its 78 minutes, Predatory Highlights is definitely the work of a band we expect to grow into better editors.
Finest Moment: “I’m Your Super Glue” mixes jangle and riffage like vintage Sugar. — DAN WEISS
Why They’re Here: In an era of heavy-metal history where outside-the-box ideas are met with scorn and thinly veiled fear, Liturgy have subverted and inverted extreme metal by taking it into strange new realms, from spectral music to hip-hop. Stubbornly pretentious and unflaggingly ambitious, the young innovators — led by guitarist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix — never fail at rattling purists with every release they put out.
Why They’re Not Higher: Although it’s admirable that Liturgy swing for the fences every time, they’re only human, and will whiff every once in a while — like when they follow their avowed impulses toward Bone Thugs-n-Harmony-styled triplet flows.
Finest Moment: The glorious, 11-and-a-half-minute “Reign Array, ” from 2015’s The Ark Work, sends basement kvltists scurrying with its audacious blend of black-metal tremolo picking and blastbeats. — ADRIEN BEGRAND
Why They’re Here: Vocalist Maja Milner’s skyscraping vocals are the real centerpiece of this Swedish quintet’s thunderous take on post-punk’s overcast structures. Guitars roll in like real-life rainclouds, colliding with drums that smack with the impact of a car crash on a freshly slicked road.
Why They’re Not Higher: They’re still on the upswing of their career — a recent tour 7″ was the most affecting recording they’ve released to date. A few members of the band also have their attention split with another project called Westkust, whose dusky riffage makes its own case for inclusion on a list like this one.
Finest Moment: The gothy avalanche of “Witness.” — COLIN JOYCE
47. ALABAMA SHAKES
Why They’re Here: Initially gaining buzz — and, eventually, a Grammy nod for Best Rock Performance — with “Hold On, ” the Athens, Alabama quartet Alabama Shakes started huge with 2012’s Boys and Girls. Fronted by powerhouse/badass Brittany Howard (whose bombastic voice and achingly personal songwriting elevates the group to the next level), the Shakes have become one of the most popular non-legacy rock bands in the country with this year’s Billboard 200-topping Sound & Color.