Let There Be Rock – The 35 Best Rock Songs of 2016GuitarSpotting
35 Best Rock Songs – 2016
2016, we hardly knew ya. But we heard you loud and clear.
It certainly seems like this year went by faster than ever. It was pretty rough on music too, as we lost way too many musical icons. Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen … just to name a few.
But it was an interesting year for new music.
The pop world is currently dominated by a few talented artists, and a lot of fluff. But hasn’t that always been the case?
There may not be a whole bunch of new rock n’ roll superstars on the scene, but rich and diverse rock music keeps coming out. Between YouTube and iTunes and some great music streaming services, it’s never been easier for musicians to get their music out there. Though it’s not always so easy for it to be heard through the whirlwind of distractions at our disposal.
I listened to songs from all kinds of musical styles & genres in search of quality, and compiled a list of the 35 Best Rock Songs of 2016.
There’s some great stuff here, and it’s time to shine a spotlight on the musicians who rocked 2016 the most.
Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution
Seems like there’s somewhere around 17 million musical genres these days, so it can be hard to keep track. I wanted to stick to rock n’ roll when trying to figure out which songs should make the cut (trust me, hip-hop, dance, and country artists get enough love already).
“It’s gotta be rock n’ roll music.
If you want to dance with me.”
What exactly does “Best Rock Song” mean?
If we’re talking about rock n’ roll music, I’d kind of like to hear some guitars on the track. A couple of exceptions were made for songs a little skimpy on guitar, but recorded by artists with a track record in rock. There’s a wide variety of sounds here from triphop beats to metal growl, and everything in between. But as long as I felt I could comfortably refer to a song as “rock”, it was eligible.
Besides, I was far more interested in the other part of the equation, that being the “best”.
A good song is a good song.
Now, a confession:
This was originally going to be a list of 25 songs. But as I narrowed down my list to the strongest contenders, I had over 30. And then I found a few more. In the end, quite a few quality tunes missed the cut. The least I could do was bump it up to 35.
We’ve got everything from indie acts, to critics darlings, to members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No age-ism or new-ism here!
First Rule: There Are No Rules
Okay, maybe one:
An artist could only appear once on the list. There were enough quality rock songs released this year that sticking to this rule was easy. To be eligible, the album had to be released in 2016 (there are 2 exceptions where either the single or album came out in 2015).
Of course, I couldn’t possibly listen to every song or album released this year. That would be silly. So some great tunes may have been overlooked. Feel free to mention your favorites in the comments. Either songs from the list you hadn’t heard before and really dig, or ones I may have missed.
Songs are listed like this:
Artist – Song (Album Title)
One final rule, for you:
The 35 Best Rock Songs of 2016
And now, ladies and gentlemen (drumroll please) … Without further ado …
Let There Be Rock!
35. Eric Clapton – Spiral (I Still Do)
“You don’t know how much this means.
To have this music in me.”
It’s great to see Ol’ Slowhand is still going strong, rocking the guitar and releasing new music.
His latest album I Still Do was produced by Glyn Johns, who worked with him on some of his classic 70s records. It’s mostly cover songs, but there are a few original tracks, and I really dig ‘Spiral’ – a cool blues song with some great guitar work (I know, big surprise, right?)
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read): Bluesy guitar goodness.
34. Red Sun Rising – Amnesia (Polyester Zeal)
“This is it.
Your only one moment in time.”
Red Sun Rising is an Ohio rock band that’s been around for a while, but appeared on a lot of music fans’ radar this year with their latest release, Polyester Zeal. The record came out in 2015, but ‘Amnesia’ was released as the 3rd single in 2016 (We’ll allow it). #WeAreThread
‘Amnesia’ is a great song featuring engaging vocals, cool lyrics, rocking band, & a fun video.
TL;DR: Sing-along rocker.
33. Vega – Every Little Monster (Who We Are)
“Every little monster.
And all the demons in your mind…”
Vega is an English band with a classic AOR melodic hard rock sound, and their latest album Who We Are is chock full of anthems.
‘Every Little Monster’ has a great hook with lush melodies and a rockin’ groove. A throwback to a simpler time.
TL;DR: Lush anthem.
32. The Pretty Reckless – Take Me Down (Who You Selling For)
“Been waitin’ at these crossroads, forever and a day.
On a guy to buy my soul.”
The Pretty Reckless returned to the scene this year armed with new music, and while lead single ‘Take Me Down’ isn’t quite as good as 2014’s ‘Heaven Knows’, it’s still some quality ear candy. Lead singer Taylor Momsen’s got the voice, and the band sounds confident and in the groove.
‘Take Me Down’ is another tale about what goes down at the Crossroads, an ode to Robert Johnson and dreams of rock n’ roll stardom. Cause we all wanna be a rock star, but sometimes there’s a heavy price to pay…
TL;DR: Taylor-made for radio.
31. Beartooth – Loser (Aggressive)
“Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids.
I was born just a little bit different.”
American punk rockers Beartooth unleashed new music on an unsuspecting public in June, and the single ‘Loser’ gets better the more frequently and the louder you play it.
Singer Caleb Shomo mildly growls his way through the verses, before the song kicks in with a killer chorus.
TL;DR: Aggressive with a hook.
30. Bad Touch – 99% (Truth Be Told)
“Now I’m 99% sure I love you.
But 99%’s not enough to make you mine.”
UK rockers Bad Touch recently burst onto the scene with their 2nd album, Truth Be Told. They have a classic rock sound with a Black Crowes vibe, a shot of hard rock and blues, and topped up with Skynyrd.
Lead single ‘99%’ is dripping with rock swagger and loud guitars.
The band is tight, and the chorus is legit. Perfect song for testing out your speakers at high volume while driving with the windows down.
I’m 99% sure you’ll like it.
TL;DR: No-nonsense 99 Proof rock n’ roll.
29. David Bowie – Blackstar (Blackstar)
I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar).
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar).”
Much respect to David Bowie and his storied career. This album came out just 2 days after his death in January.
I didn’t include the title track ‘Blackstar’ out of nostalgia, though. This jazzy, experimental track really grows on you with repeat listens, creating a strong sense of dread with an eclectic mix of sounds.
I was never the biggest Bowie fan, but this is a great song with an appropriately surreal, evocative music video. A true artist to the end.
TL;DR: Mysterious and engaging.
28. Thrice – Black Honey (To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere)
“I keep swinging my hand through a swarm of bees, ‘cause I …
I want honey on my table.”
California heavy rock band Thrice has been around since the late 90s. Their 9th studio album To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere was released back in May after the band had spent a couple of years on hiatus, and their fans are thrilled they’re back.
The single ‘Black Honey’ is a moody track with intriguing lyrics and a memorable chorus. Another one that grows on you.
Black Honey may be sweet but it’s also bitter.
TL;DR: Gloom rock.