Let There Be Rock – The 35 Best Rock Songs of 2016

best rock song 2016

Let There Be Rock – The 35 Best Rock Songs of 2016

25. Martha – Goldman’s Detective Agency (Blisters in the Pit of My Heart)

“Hearing footsteps slowly creeping, this is getting much too tense.
Come on gumshoe, be the one to, help me out.”

Martha is an indie band hailing from north-east England way, and they’re a weird but intriguing mix of pop and punk filtered through a playful sense of humor and melody.

And they’ve gained some new fans thanks to ‘Goldman’s Detective Agency’, a clever tune that imagines early 20th century political activist Emma Goldman as a private detective.

So a bit of literary ambition, mixed with melody and wit. Oh yeah, and most importantly …

TL;DR: Catchy as hell.

24. Phish – Blaze On (Big Boat)

“You never get too sad, you never get too blue.
It must be all the chem trails raining down on you.”

Phish recently released their latest album Big Boat, produced by studio legend Bob Ezrin. He reportedly pushed them to write more straightforward, personal songs, and the end result is a mature, accessible record. Some fans have grumbled about the lack of surreal “all-over-the-map-ness” typical of their earlier studio output, but I think it suits them just fine at this point in their career.

These guys are amazingly talented musicians, and the band added ‘Blaze On’ to their live act a year or two ago. So it’s been played multiple times in concert, and Phish-heads were familiar with it long before the album release.

The studio version of ‘Blaze On’ isn’t currently available on YouTube, so here’s a live version instead. The album track is worth seeking out, and it may be an accessible place to start if you find yourself the least bit Phish-curious.

‘Blaze On’ is 4:20 in length (get it?), catchy with an excellent sing-along chorus, and cool lyrics with a little added snark.

TL;DR: Shifty sing-along.

23. Wesley Fuller – Melvista (Melvista EP)

“Well it was happening at Melvista.
I probably should have kissed you while I had the chance.”

Wesley Fuller is an Australian indie artist who deserves some more attention. He released the Melvista EP this year, and all 5 songs are pretty good.

But the bouncy title track stands out with a strong melody, handclaps, and thumping drumbeat, all dressed up in a colorful 60s & 70s vibe. Worth checking out.

TL;DR: Inspired glam.

22. Alter Bridge – Show Me a Leader (The Last Hero)

“Show me a leader that won’t compromise.
Show me a leader so hope never dies.”

I first became aware of Alter Bridge through singer Myles Kennedy’s work on a couple of Slash solo albums. Turns out his own band is worth paying attention to, though I was surprised to find out that the rest of the group rose from the ashes of Creed to form this new band.

But don’t hold that against them.

Alter Bridge is a progressive hard rock (metal?) band well-regarded for their live performances, and their studio output keeps improving. 2013’s Fortress is worth a listen, and they recently dropped The Last Hero, an ambitious album full of dizzying guitars and driving rockers.

Lead single ‘Show Me a Leader’ just rocks. It grabs your attention right from the intro, and features excellent musicianship and great vocals. Complex yet accessible.

TL;DR: Progressive rocker.

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.

TL;DR: Thoughtful.

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)

“I have become such a negative person.
  It was all just an act. It was all so easily stripped away.”

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.

15. Phantogram – You Don’t Get Me High Anymore (Three)

“Nothing is fun. Not like before.
You don’t get me high anymore.”

American electro-pop duo Phantogram released their 3rd album this year (it’s called Three – get it?)

The single ‘You Don’t Get Me High Anymore’ is a trippy, snarling track with great vocals, a strong beat and a striking mix of sounds and emotions. Love these lyrics, too.

TL;DR: Dark and edgy.

14. Cheap Trick – No Direction Home (Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello)

“Know that I can, I’ll take my time.
Everything I am it’s all in my mind.”

Cheap Trick’s career path is like a rollercoaster ride – a mix of mind-bending highs and stomach-churning lows.

The band returned to rock 2016 with a worthy induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their first new album since 2009. Bang, Zoom, Crazy … Hello is a quality record, and worth a listen if you like Cheap Trick.

Several cool tracks to choose from on the album, but I love everything about ‘No Direction Home’, from the classic Cheap Trick sound to the killer chorus and all-too-brief psychedelic break. It’s anthemic power-pop that fits right into their already impressive discography.

The video below is fan-made, but the song is pure Cheap Trick.

TL;DR: Classic rock with swagger.

13. Avenged Sevenfold – The Stage (The Stage)

“Tell me a lie in a beautiful way.
I believe in answers, just not today.”

California metal band Avenged Sevenfold has been around since 1999, and announced their new record The Stage was coming out the night before its release. It’s a concept album about AI, the future and the past, and the meaning of humanity and our curious tendency towards self-destruction. I’ll admit I hadn’t listened to much Avenged Sevenfold before this release, but they definitely have my attention now.

Lead single ‘The Stage’ is an ambitious tour de force of screaming guitars and inspired vocals. It’s 8:30 long but never dull, with multiple sections and instrumental interludes. Plus lots of great guitar work, interesting lyrics and video, and some cinematic twists and turns.

TL;DR: Epic.

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.

TL;DR: Special.

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…

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Comments (2)

  • Debbie D. Reply

    I’m the first to admit, my musical tastes are mostly stuck in the ’60s and ’70s, but there is good music out there if you look for it. Loving Metallica’s new album and I recently discovered “The Pretty Reckless”. Taylor Momsen has a fantastic voice! This is bookmarked so I can come back and listen in depth. Thanks for expanding my musical education! I had no idea The Monkees had any new recordings.

    December 7, 2016 at 9:21 pm
    • GuitarSpotting Reply

      Thanks for checking it out. I love lots of classic music too, but it’s definitely worthwhile to keep up to date as well, lots of great music getting made. Hopefully you find a few songs you like!

      December 9, 2016 at 6:30 am

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