13 Amazing Bands Like To R.E.M.

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Known for their distinctive fusion of alternative rock, jangle pop, and post-punk elements, R.E.M. delivered thought-provoking lyrics backed by striking melodies that listeners loved.

Formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980—when vocalist Michael Stipe partnered with drummer Bill Berry, alongside guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills—they successfully carved a niche for themselves in the world of college radio.

If you are a fan of R.E.M. and looking to expand your music library with artists who share similar vibes, then dive into this list of 13 amazing bands like R.E.M. Ready? Let’s get started!

R.E.M. by Stefano (CC BY-SA 2.0)

1. The Replacements

The first band on this list emerged as one of the most important American indie rock bands in the 1980s, alongside R.E.M—The Replacements.

Initially, the Minnesota band began as a hardcore punk band but later evolved to incorporate songcraft and rock-and-roll energy into their musical style. This shift resulted in a sound that appealed to fans of both genres.

Multiple lineup changes contributed to the evolution of The Replacements’ sound throughout their career. One notable change involved replacing guitarist Bob Stinson in 1986 with Slim Dunlap a year later.

R.E.M. fans should explore The Replacements’ discography. Start with their highest-charting album, Don’t Tell a Soul. It contains the #1 hit “I’ll Be You,” that’ll have you engaged to the beat in no time.

Read next: Our list of similar bands to The Replacements.

2. The Smiths

Hailing from the vibrant Manchester music scene of the 1980s, The Smiths pioneered a distinctive fusion of alternative rock, post-punk, and new wave that made them one of the most adored bands in British music.

Known for their guitar-driven sound and melancholic lyrics penned by frontman Morrissey, they were a major influence on many indie musicians who followed in their footsteps.

The band released four studio albums during their brief existence, which lasted from 1982 to 1987. These albums were The Smiths, Meat Is Murder, The Queen Is Dead, and Strangeways, Here We Come. Each of these albums gained critical acclaim, charting in either the #1 or #2 spot on the UK Albums Chart.

Despite their success, internal tensions within the band eventually led to their breakup in 1987. However, The Smiths’ music remains cherished by fans worldwide and continues to inspire listeners.

3. Wilco

Emerging from the Chicago music scene in 1994, Wilco has relentlessly carved out a unique sound blending rock and alternative country. The band was formed by the remaining members of Uncle Tupelo after their breakup, with Jeff Tweedy taking the lead as frontman.

They debuted in 1995 with the album A.M. and followed this up with 11 more throughout their career. A Ghost Is Born, Wilco’s fifth studio album, won the band two Grammy Awards: Best Recording Package and Best Alternative Music Album.

Wilco’s connection to R.E.M runs deeper than just musical similarities. In 2003, they joined forces with Ed Harcourt and Sparklehorse as opening acts for R.E.M.’s tour. Both bands share an affinity for poetic lyrics, unconventional arrangements, and bold experimentation within their respective genres.

4. Radiohead

British rock band Radiohead has made a huge impact on the music industry since their single, “Creep,” from their debut album in 1993. The band’s unique sound and style have earned them a dedicated following of fans, and they are often cited as an influence for many current alternative rock bands.

A number of American bands, including R.E.M., heavily influenced Radiohead, and this can be heard in some of their early work.

One of Radiohead’s most popular albums is The Bends, which was released in 1995 during the height of the alternative rock movement. The album features classic tracks like “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” which still resonate with fans today.

Following the breakthrough album, Radiohead continued to release seven more albums that garnered critical acclaim and achieved success on the charts worldwide, not just in the US.

5. Pixies

The Pixies are often considered to be one of the most influential alternative rock bands in music history. Hailing from Boston, the band formed in 1986 and quickly gained a dedicated following with their punk, post-punk, and indie rock sound.

One of Pixie’s most praised records is Doolittle, which features thirteen songs that clock in at under 33 minutes. This album had an immense impact on the development of grunge and alternative rock throughout the 1990s.

After over two decades without releasing an LP, the Pixies came back with Indie Cindy in 2014—a new album that received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike.

6. U2

Formed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1976, the rock band U2 has been recognized as one of the greatest and best-selling bands in music history. They have sold over 150 million records worldwide and won numerous awards, including 22 Grammy Awards.

From their early albums, such as Boy and War, to their breakthrough success with The Joshua Tree (1987), U2’s music has evolved and expanded over the years. With their mix of rock, pop, and post-punk sound, they have created a unique musical style that has stood the test of time.

Fans flock to see them perform live and create unforgettable experiences through their energetic performances. To this day, U2 continues to be a popular and influential band, with a dedicated fan base that spans across generations.

7. Talking Heads

Next up is the rock band Talking Heads, who formed in New York in 1975. The band started when David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, and Chris Frantz met at an art and design school in Providence, Rhode Island.

Like R.E.M., Talking Heads is known to experiment with different sounds and ideas in their music. This experimental approach has earned them critical acclaim over the years.

With their blend of rock, funk, pop, and world music, they released eight studio albums. Notable hits worth exploring from their discography are “Road to Nowhere” and “Once in a Lifetime.”

Despite achieving commercial success and critical acclaim, Talking Heads disbanded in 1991. Their work did not go unnoticed, however, as the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

8. The National

Formed in Cincinnati in 1999, the band The National brings together a talented group of musicians. Lead vocalist Matt Berninger, guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner, drummer Bryan Devendorf, and bassist Scott Devendorf make up this accomplished ensemble.

The band gained critical acclaim and a dedicated following with their fourth studio album, Boxer, in 2007. It showcased their distinct musical style and poetic songwriting. Following the success of Boxer, The National continued to release acclaimed albums, including High Violet and Trouble Will Find Me.

Members of R.E.M. have provided invaluable advice to the band over the years. Michael Stipe from R.E.M., a long-time fan of The National’s music, was instrumental in helping them refine their early material before recording their debut album.

9. Arcade Fire

We move up north of the US for the Canadian indie rock band Arcade Fire. Formed in 2001, they have since gained widespread recognition for their experimental music and provocative lyrics.

The band’s first and second albums were great success, but it was their third album, The Suburbs, that gained widespread acclaim. It topped several charts worldwide, including the US, UK, and Canada, and won Album of the Year from both the Grammys and Juno Awards in 2011.

Fans of R.E.M. may appreciate Arcade Fire’s art-rock sensibilities, as well as their willingness to experiment with different genres and musical styles. Go ahead and give them a listen!

10. Modest Mouse

Formed in 1993, the indie rock band Modest Mouse hails from Issaquah, Washington. Known for their unique musical style, the group’s sound has been aptly described as a blend of “art punk,” incorporating a diverse range of elements spanning from alternative music to lo-fi garage rock.

One of Modest Mouse’s most successful albums, Good News for People Who Love Bad News, released in 2004, propelled them to mainstream success. It featured the hit single “Float On,” which became their breakthrough song and received significant radio play. The album also won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.

Modest Mouse and R.E.M. have similarities in their approach to alternative rock and their impact on the genre, but they also have unique qualities that make them distinct. Each band has crafted their own musical identity and contributed to the rich tapestry of alternative rock in their own way.

11. Pavement

California band Pavement quickly rose to prominence in the 1990s as a significant presence in the alternative music scene. It was initially formed as a project by Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg.

The band gained critical acclaim with their debut album, Slanted and Enchanted, in 1992, which featured the influential singles “Summer Babe” and “Trigger Cut.”

They continued to release a series of acclaimed albums throughout the 1990s, including Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, and Brighten the Corners. Pavement’s music resonated with audiences who appreciated their unconventional approach and blend of indie rock and lo-fi aesthetics.

Pavement shares some similarities with R.E.M. in terms of their impact and influence on the alternative rock genre. Both bands emerged during the same era and were instrumental in shaping the sound and direction of indie rock.

12. Vampire Weekend

Another band that has taken the indie world by storm is Vampire Weekend. Formed in 2006 in New York City, the band’s music is a unique blend of preppy, well-read indie rock with joyful Afropop-inspired melodies and rhythms.

Their self-titled debut album was released in 2008 and has since become a fan favorite. Following this, the band released three more critically acclaimed albums—all of which topped the Billboard 200 chart.

Two albums, Modern Vampires of the City (2013) and Father of the Bride (2019), won Vampire Weekend Grammys for Best Alternative Music Album.

With catchy rhythms, melodic hooks, and preppy vibes reminiscent of early R.E.M. tracks like “Radio Free Europe,” it’s easy to see why fans love Vampire Weekend.

13. The Decemberists

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, The Decemberists is an indie rock band known for their R.E.M.-esque sound. Their name comes from the Decembrist Revolt in Russia, reflected in some of their lyrics featuring historical themes and characters.

They gained popularity with albums like The Hazards of Love, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, and the Billboard 200–topping The King Is Dead.

Led by frontman Colin Meloy, The Decemberists has a distinct sound that sets them apart from other bands. With influences ranging from British folk to American roots music, they create intricate and layered compositions with poetic lyrics that draw listeners in.

The Decemberists continue to be an important presence in the independent music scene, with loyal fans who appreciate their storytelling ability and eclectic style.

Summing Up Our List Of Bands Like R.E.M.

While there may never be another band quite like R.E.M., many other alternative and indie rock bands, like the above 13, have similar sounds and influences. Nevertheless, each one offers their own unique take on the genre that deserves to be explored.

We hope this list has helped you discover new great artists to add to your playlist. Let us know if we missed any bands deserving to be on here, and we’ll add them for you!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.