Best of 2013 (Part 1): Top 15 Rock Singles

I understand that this blog has been inactive for some time now.  Between various life events, finals, and a crashing hard drive, remaining consistent to my writing has been next to impossible, until now.  Unfortunately, a lot of great material from noteworthy artists has come out (and ultimately gone unrecognized by the blog) since my last post.

In an attempt to compensate for this matter, I have decided to bring the blog back into action with a three-part retrospective on 2013.  This year was a really good one where rock music was concerned, and it’s important that we look back on the songs, albums, and artists that helped define it.

Expect parts 2 and 3 between now and New Year’s Day.  As always, I greatly appreciate your interest and feedback.

Now then, let’s kick things off with my top 15 rock singles of the year:

1. Alice in Chains- “Stone”          

Alice in Chains’ “Stone” is one of those rock songs that makes you remember where you were when you first heard it.  This is mainly a result of its bellowing, ferocious guitar riff- one of the best Jerry Cantrell has ever penned.  The song exemplifies AiC’s talent for innovating their sound, all while keeping in contact with the kinds of evocative blunt force that has kept their work so powerful to this day.

2. Black Sabbath- “God is Dead?”        

The first indicator that Black Sabbath was BACK, “God is Dead” quickly exceeded any expectations fans had about the band’s comeback effort, “13.” The song dances over a haunting guitar arpeggio, periodically exploding into madness before finally climaxing with a classic Toni Iommi guitar solo.

3. Pearl Jam- “Sirens”      

If “Mind Your Manners” was a reminder of Pearl Jam’s angst and aggression, then “Sirens” was a testament to their mastery of sensitive emotion.  “Sirens,” a ballad of uncertainty and loyalty, is a moving accomplishment that could only be topped off by the wavering, cathartic voice of Eddie Vedder.

4. Volbeat- “Lola Montez”      

“Lola Montez” stands as a defining moment on Volbeat’s “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies, drawing strength from a catchy chorus and a collection of upbeat lead runs from new member, Rob Caggiano.  The song boasts a made-for-radio sound that juxtaposes its clear sense of creative pride.

5. Paul McCartney/Dave Grohl- “Cut me Some Slack”      

First debuted during last year’s iconic “12/12/12” benefit concert, “Cut me Some Slack” finds Paul McCartney teaming up with the remaining members of Nirvana to deliver a jam reminiscent of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”  Collaborations don’t get much better than this.

6. Queens of the Stone Age- “If I Had a Tail”

It’s hard to pick one track to represent Queens of the Stone Age’s splendid “…Like Clockwork,” one of the year’s standout rock albums.  However, “If I Had a Tail” is simply too infectious to deny.  The song grooves along at a steady pace and benefits from a strong, moody vocal performance from Josh Homme.

7. Nine Inch Nails- “Came Back Haunted”      

Where good Nine Inch Nails songs are concerned, “Came Back Haunted” does it all:  swirling layers of chirping synthesizers and crunching guitars, battered, anxiety-tinted vocals, and a collection of dark themes.  The song draws from a lot of NIN’s notable past works.

8. Korn- “Love and Meth”      

After Korn re-united with former guitarist, Brian “Head” Welch, fans were initially put off by “Never, Never,” a song that favored electronic mixing over guitar work.  “Love and Meth,” the band’s follow-up single, quickly eased these anxieties.  The song features the kind of groaning, pulsating riffs and breakdowns that helped define the popularity of Korn’s late 90’s releases.

9. Ghost- “Secular Haze”      

Ghost are a band based heavily on spectacle, and this spectacle is what fuels “Secular Haze,” one of 2013’s most mesmerizing rock songs.  The track is a slow-paced death waltz centered on a haunting blend of organs, guitars, and the band’s signature tongue-in-cheek satanic imagery.

10. A Perfect Circle- “By and Down”      

They finally did it:  A Perfect Circle unveiled new material in 2013, much to the joy of the band’s eager fanbase (who had been waiting since the release of 2004’s “Passive”).  “By and Down,” an eerie trip through the darkest confines of Maynard James Keenan’s brain, is not a new song per say; it had been performed live for years prior to its studio release in October.  Still, APC’s presence on the charts was refreshing, and continued to fuel hope for a new album.

11. Avenged Sevenfold- “Hail to the King”      

Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail to the King” takes a modern approach to classic Maiden-style metal and sprinkles it over top themes of medieval war.  Many viewed the song as an acquired taste, but its fresh, catchy impact on 2013’s rock charts proved to be more than evident over time.

12. Arctic Monkeys- “Do I Wanna Know”      

The Arctic Monkeys are a band that deserves more recognition.  “Do I Wanna Know,” may be the major segue track they have been looking for; Alex Turner plays off the song’s defining dirty, bluesy riff with a series of smooth alliterations that are comfortable on the ears and rough on the soul.

13. Rob Zombie- “We’re an American Band”      

When you take the mind of a brilliant modern metal act and apply it to a vintage rock favorite, great things are bound to happen.  Rob Zombie achieved success in putting a fun, gritty twist on a Grand Funk Railroad classic.

14. Filter- “What Do You Say”      

Filter made an unexpected comeback in 2013, blazing a trail for themselves with “What Do You Say.” The hard-hitting track that could easily be viewed as a sequel to the band’s mid-90s classic, “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”

15. Deftones- “Swerve City”      

On “Swerve City,” Deftones stay true to their method of layering entrancing vocals atop a brutally heavy guitar section.  The song is a great cut from “Koi No Yokan”- which received high amounts of praise upon its release in 2012.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Chi Cheng, Lou Reed, Jeff Hanneman, and all the other wonderful and irreplaceable rock musicians we lost during 2013.

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My Top 10 Rock Albums of 2012

1. Soundgarden- “King Animal”        

No contest.  Soundgarden have returned, seemingly right where the left off.  “King Animal’s” songs churn with crunchy grunge riffs, but they also find Soundgarden as focused as ever on small details and complexity.  Songs such as “Taree” and “Blood on the Valley Floor” loudly ring in the band’s return, while “Black Saturday” and “Halfway There” complement the album with a beautiful, acoustic shimmer.  This is the album that Soundgarden fans (and most rock fans in general) have been craving for years.  “King Animal” is the undisputed best rock album of 2012.

2. Rush- “Clockwork Angels”      

It has a big sci-fi plot, absolutely no filler, and crushing production value that rivals that of modern heavy metal bands (not to mention the most beautiful outro track of the year).  Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” is not just an album, it’s an experience.

3. Deftones- “Koi No Yokan”     

It must be easy for bands to become envious of Deftones; the band seems to be incapable of releasing a bad album.  “Koi No Yokan” is Deftones’ second album without longtime bassist, Chi Cheng.  With masterpiece tracks such as “Leathers,” “Entombed,” and “Tempest,” the band has continued to honor Cheng’s legacy in the best possible way.  Every second of “Koi No Yokan” tugs at a variety of emotional strings.

4. Dinosaur Jr.- “I Bet on Sky”    

Dinosaur Jr. released some of their best work in the 1980s and 1990s, but recently, they have been giving their classics a run for their money.  “I Bet on Sky” builds off the perfection of 2009’s “Farm” and takes it to whole new heights.  “Almost Fare” and “Pierce the Morning Rain,” among others, are some of the best songs the band has ever written.  J Mascis’s modest vocals and powerful guitar runs have arguably never sounded better.

 

5. Wallflowers- “Glad All Over”    

“Glad All Over” was widely anticipated by many, and it did not disappoint in the least. From the start, the album showcases some of the band’s best work of the last decade.  “Love is a Country,” “Constellation Blues,” and the Mick Jones-graced “Misfits and Lovers,” in particular, are very impressive cuts.  Jakob Dylan and the boys have found fresh energy.

6. Offspring- “Days Go By”    

The Offspring have continued to move in a logical direction with “Days Go By.”  The album shines with surprisingly captivating, controlled riffs and solos, all while echoing vintage Offspring  by means of “Cruising California (Bumping in My Trunk)” and the appropriate, burn out conclusion of “Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell.”  “Days Go By” proves that the Offspring are beginning to truly reach their full creative potential.

7. Green Day- “Uno”    

For those who favor old Green Day as opposed to politically charged, rock opera Green Day, “Uno” stands as a major breath of fresh air.  The album takes the smooth production of “American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown” and combines it with edgy, “don’t give a f*ck” lyrics reminiscent of “Dookie” and “Insomniac.”  Uno may be Green Day’s strongest album of the past decade.

8. Bruce Springsteen- “Wrecking Ball”    

When Bruce Springsteen releases a new album, brilliant craftsmanship is usually a given.  “Wrecking Ball” is no different;  songs like “Death to My Hometown,” “Jack of All Trades,” and the opening anthem, “We Take Care of Our Own” prove that The Boss is still one of the best in the business.

9. Three Days Grace- “Transit of Venus”    

Though not as full or emotionally charged as past Three Days Grace albums, “Transit of Venus” stands as a strong effort.  Most of the album finds the band broadening their horizons with new dynamics and song structures.  However, songs such as “Operate” and “Anonymous” still give longtime fans a reason to listen.  Regardless, it is evident that Adam Gontier’s songwriting has improved immensely.

10. Stone Sour- “House of Gold and Bones Part 1”    

Despite the fact that Stone Sour have had quite a lot of success over the years, they never truly seemed capable of producing an album that felt complete.  That is, until they released House of Gold and Bones Part 1.  The album currently stands as their magnum opus.

Deftones- “Koi No Yokan” Album Review

Bands change, it’s almost inevitable.  Most artists tend to dabble in some form of stylistic experimentation, but the Deftones hold up as one of the most consistent in the business.

Rather than exploring new horizons, “Koi No Yokan,” celebrates all of Deftones’ old tricks; but that’s exactly what everyone wants.

The new album, which is Deftones’ second to not include bassist, Chi Cheng, finds the band in a much more relaxed state of mind.  2009’s “Diamond Eyes,” seemed to indicate a much needed release of emotion that bled with subtle themes of rising above. “Koi No Yokan’s” material is just as passionate and provocative, but revives the stripped down, garage-style snarls that initially helped defined the band’s sound.

“Swerve City” quickly makes this evident with an intro that plays like repeated right hooks to the face.  “Leathers,” “Poltergiest,” and “Tempest” all showcase “Around the Fur” style grandeur with buzzing, neck-breaking verses and soothing, hook-driven choruses.   Most of the album’s tracks shine through their sheer ferocity, but there are several entwined reminders of Deftones’ unique beauty and control; “Entombed,” for example, is mesmerizing.

The craftsmanship displayed on “Koi No Yokan” is simply unparalleled; every single space on the album is filled with fine-tuned detail that commands undivided attention.

All in all:

Standout Tracks:  “Swerve City,” “Leathers,” “Tempest,” “Poltergeist,” “Rosemary,” “Entombed,”

Deftones- “Koi No Yokan:” 5/5