Let There Be Rock – The 35 Best Rock Songs of 2016GuitarSpotting
21. Wintersleep – Amerika (The Great Detachment)
“What am I gonna do? I can’t survive on my Amerika.
If the worst is true, is it just a waste of time?”
Wintersleep is a Canadian rock band, and ‘Amerika’ reached #1 on the Canadian rock chart earlier this year.
Inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem America, the song takes a measured look at the current state of modern life, and whether Whitman’s strong belief in American values would still hold true today. It’s also a cool rock song with a sense of urgency and a pop melody.
20. Radiohead – Burn the Witch (A Moon Shaped Pool)
“Burn the witch.
We know where you live.”
Radiohead has certainly figured out the art of unorthodox marketing. And they continue to experiment with a wide variety of audio palettes. Their music isn’t as accessible as it once was, but it’s easy to admire their focus on art over commerce.
‘Burn the Witch’ has actually been around since the early 2000s, but the band never felt comfortable with the arrangement until now. It’s been described as an “orchestral pop song”, and it features an unsettling, memorable mix of instrumentation and moody vocals. A cool song with a great video.
TL;DR: Intense and foreboding.
19. Green Day – Still Breathing (Revolution Radio)
“I’m like a soldier coming home for the first time.
I dodged a bullet and I walked across a landmine.”
After the relative failure of 2012’s triple album release of ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!, Green Day came bouncing back in 2016 with Revolution Radio. The album is a little uneven, but still contains several great songs and is worth checking out if you’re down with Green Day.
The title track (‘Revolution Radio’) came very close to making this list. It’s great, but in the end was edged out by ‘Still Breathing’, a contemplative song with mellow verses that kick into the chorus beautifully. This song is currently lighting up the radio airwaves (at least, on radio stations that actually still play new music), and it’s a keeper.
TL;DR: Still rocking.
18. Treat – Ghost of Graceland (Ghost of Graceland)
“Do you feel the Ghost of Graceland?
Do you see the writing on the wall?”
Treat is a Swedish melodic rock band, and it turns out they’ve been around for a while, although I didn’t become aware of them until this year. They actually released 5 albums in the late 80s and early 90s before breaking up in 1993. They reunited in 2005, and released the album Coup de Grace in 2010, a popular record in the melodic rock scene.
Their latest album Ghost of Graceland is one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year. There were several tracks in contention for this list (check out ‘I Don’t Miss the Misery’ and ‘Do Your Own Stunts’ if you’d like to hear more), but I opted for the title track because it’s so damn good. These guys can really play, and this album is full of strong musicianship and intelligent, well-crafted songs.
‘Ghost of Graceland’ features infectious melodies, screaming guitars, and soaring keyboards, blended seamlessly in a modern mix.
TL;DR: A real treat. (ba-dum-tshh)
17. Andy Black – We Don’t Have to Dance (The Shadow Side)
“It’s so nice to meet you.
Let’s never meet again.”
Andy Black is the lead singer of American emo-metal-rock band Black Veil Brides, and he decided to take a break from group shenanigans to release a solo album in May.
This allowed him to explore different styles and a poppier “synth-punk” sound.
The lyrics of ‘We Don’t Have to Dance’ refer to the awkward nature of shallow small-talk at social gatherings. The song has a great beat, and the vocals are well-recorded with a lot of depth.
There’s no denying that ‘We Don’t Have to Dance’ is a super-catchy song that, ironically, is probably getting a lot of play on dance floors around the world as we speak. And with over 21 million views on YouTube already, I’d say a few other people probably agree that it rocks.
TL;DR: A rock song you can dance to. Or not.
16. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales (Teens of Denial)
A singer-songwriter named Will Toledo began recording songs in 2010, eventually ending up with 12 albums on the Bandcamp platform. He finally signed a record deal last year, and put out a kind of “Best Of” album with re-recorded versions of several older tracks.
The band’s first album of all-new material, Teens of Denial came out in May of this year and Car Seat Headrest quickly became critical darlings. The hype is justified, though, because the album’s great, and while this song in particular may take a couple of listens to fully assimilate, I assure you it’s worth the effort.
‘Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales’ is a sprawling, mature song with a message that slowly nestles in your ear. The juxtaposition of two different ideas (a drunk driver trying to get home, and a killer whale trapped in an aquarium) seems odd on the surface but it all just works.
TL;DR: Indie storytelling guitar rock.
12. Blackberry Smoke – Running Through Time (Like an Arrow)
“Some just get tired of that same old routine.
Some wind up lucky and gracefully, stuck in between.”
Blackberry Smoke straddles the line between Southern rock and country in a way that is acceptable to both camps. Their new record is worth a spin and features several great songs, and ‘Running Through Time’ just might be the best. It’s a slow-paced breezy singalong a little bit country, and a little bit rock n’ roll. Basically a mellow rock song with soul, and some tasty guitar licks with killer tone.
Stick around for the awesome Allman Brothers-style guitar interplay during the last couple of minutes of the song.
11. Ninja Sex Party – Cool Patrol (Single)
“Lightly jog in place and then crank it up to a prance.
This is the cool patrol dance.”
Okay, so there’s this group called Ninja Sex Party. I should warn you, they’re not for the faint of heart. Though you probably already figured that out by their name. There’s no easy way to put this, so I’ll just say it: the group consists of an ambiguously-not-gay superhero, and a keyboard-playing ninja.
But here’s the thing:
They’re hilarious. Like laugh out loud funny. And more interestingly (is that a word? it must be, cause I just used it in a sentence bitches), once you stop laughing you realize they’re actually quite talented musicians. Something along the lines of Tenacious D and Lonely Island.
The new single ‘Cool Patrol’ is catchy and hella-fun. And the video is great (as are many of their videos). Someday YouTube will be renamed Ninja Sex Party.
I suppose it gets a little wobbly calling it “rock”, but at the end of the day, it rocks. Also, feel free to perform the Cool Patrol dance in public – you almost certainly won’t end up getting punched in the face.
(Disclaimer: we cannot be held liable if you perform this dance in public and get punched in the face).
Interestingly, Ninja Sex Party also released an album of cover songs this year called Between the Covers, where they play it straight. (Well, as straight as Ninja Sex Party can play anything). And it’s excellent! I actually first became aware of the band through their cover of a-ha’s classic ‘Take On Me’.
TL;DR: Cool Break!
Now get ready for the Top 10 Best Rock Songs of 2016…